August 26, 2012
Originally published in the Knoxville Sentinel.
Riding a bus for weeks at a time as an undocumented immigrant can be a little intimidating. Stopping in cities and towns where there is a clear risk of arrest and jail means overcoming fear. Still, along with my fellow undocumented passengers of the "No Papers, No Fear Ride for Justice," I'm looking forward to our visit to Knoxville as we head toward Charlotte, N.C., and the Democratic National Convention at the beginning of September.
I am on the bus because it is time for undocumented people like me who live, work, study and organize in this country to come out of the shadows. It's time to change the laws so that people like me and my family don't have to live in fear of jail, deportation or separation. It's time for people in the United States to understand that we are human and we are home, regardless of where we were born or what our immigration status is.
I've been in the United States since I was 7 years old, My dad, who was having a hard time finding work in Mexico, moved after being offered a job in Chicago. To make sure my sister and I grew up with our father, my mother made the choice to move with him to the U.S. After our visas expired, we became undocumented.
As part of the Immigrant Youth Justice League, a group led by undocumented people, I spoke out and participated in civil disobedience. To remain in the shadows, to remain feeling like I had no control over my life, was intolerable. By showing that I am not afraid, I work to create a better present and future for all.
We want undocumented people to believe that they can be part of creating the change that this country needs.
I think people in Knoxville who are not undocumented have no idea what it is like to fear getting stopped by police for a minor traffic violation that could lead to being deported, or to be harassed because your face is brown.
When Arizona passed its anti-immigrant law in 2010, a lot of undocumented families moved to other states. But for many of us, leaving home was not an option. Undocumented communities need to find a common voice that can address the record number of deportations and move President Barack Obama, Congress and our neighbors to stand on the right side of history and do their part to turn the tide from exclusion to inclusion.
The president has taken some steps, but under the federal government's "Secure Communities" program, hundreds of thousands of deportations continue to occur. It doesn't make sense to separate young people who qualify for deferred action under the president's recent "Dream Act" announcement from parents who still are at risk of deportation. We're heading to Charlotte because we hope to inspire the president to do more.
In Phoenix, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has built his political career by hurting people like me. His deputies are famous for racial profiling and using intimidation to create chaos and fear. In the face of that sort of terrorism, we've learned that everyone is safer when we organize to defend our rights.
I'm confident that this nation will eventually come to grips with today's discrimination and make things right. This country has been built upon generations of people asserting their rights, resisting injustice and moving forward. Like the brave people who came before us, we are confronting our fears so that this country can be confronted with our humanity.
That's why I'm on the bus.