I decided to advocate for immigrants’ rights because I had finally, after 22 years of waiting, obtained my U.S. Citizenship. Obtaining it didn’t mean the end of the racial profiling, because I looked visibly Latina. I had become tired of working for a company which wanted to act as ICE – firing various undocumented workers, and constantly limiting the upward mobility of employees of color. I was able to obtain a job organizing immigrant communities and allies.
But my desire to advocate for immigrants’ rights (including a plan to lobby for the passage of the DREAM Act in January) came to me when I remembered an event in my life. When I was 9 years old I crossed the street on the way to school and got hit by a car. I blacked out as soon as I hit the ground. Luckily, none of my bones were broken, but that is how I learned about one fact: I was undocumented. The person who hit me was speeding. Clearly it was his fault, but he was able to get out of my paying for my medical expenses because his insurance found out that I and my mother were undocumented. For a few years, until I was 14 and obtained the permit that eventually paved my way to citizenship, I constantly had nightmares about getting deported, that my mother would get deported, etc. To this day, when I am too stressed I still have nightmares about this.
I live in a state that actively racially profiles those who are African-American or who look “different.” I am still accused of of being undocumented, though I am protected. I never choose to prove those who accuse me that they are wrong, because what they truly hate about me is the color of my skin. Today I received an e-mail and found out one of my former college classmates is forced to wear an electronic shackle. Many of my undocumented friends with college educations live lives of fear, though some have chosen to come out as Undocumented and Unafraid. I choose to help others pave their way to a legal citizenship that does NOT separate them from their families, a pathway to citizenship that will address their needs as humans, and that honors the hard work of immigrants.