In the week that has passed since the Obama administration announced some new prosecutorial discretion guidelines for DHS to better prioritize its work, there have been continued protests and actions against the controversial Secure Communities Program. One action that received a bit more press involved the Assistant Director of Secure Communities, who was confronted by an undocumented woman who called the police after a domestic altercation and was placed in deportation proceedings. This took place at a public hearing in Arlington, Virginia. Check out this clip below:
And this week in Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire DREAM Teams demanded an end to the Secure Communities Program at the Roybal Federal building. Some activists were arrested.
As election season heats up, there will be more protest opportunities, especially as the President starts to publicly campaign. I suspect that if the implementation of Secure Communities continues as it has in the past that there will be even more actions. Undocumented activists are taking more public steps to speak out, which brings me to the following blog piece by Thay Alaffita:
Coming Out of the Shadows
DREAM organizations are organizing “Coming Out of the Shadows” events all over the country. The purpose of these events is to publicly state that they are “undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic”. But beyond that is a personal gain and milestone accomplished for the undocumented students who choose to participate as this is the first time they are fully accepting their situation and furthermore understanding that this is something that they shouldn’t keep apologizing for. With hopes of changing hearts and mindsets, these students risk all they have by sharing their story with the world knowing that once this is done, they can never turn back. Voluntarily branding a scarlet letter to their chests, they are fully aware of the possible persecution and criticism, but also know that they have a whole community behind them, ready to fight for them.
On April 15th of this year, CMSA (The Council for Minority Student Affairs) at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX hosted a “Coming Out of the Shadows” event where about 12 students “came out”, myself included. However, this was not something that I decided to do from one day to the next, it took a long time before I was able to overcome my fear and a long time before I came to understand that being “undocumented” was not shameful – I was still working hard for my education and working hard to succeed, I was still just like everybody else except I lacked a 9 digit number that made me different. The night before, I remember clearly, seeing many negative comments on our event page some even went as far as saying that they were going to call ICE on our event. I cried that night because once again I was overcome with fear and doubt, I wanted to back down, change my mind, make something up to not go at the last minute, and I cried because it hurt me deeply to know that fellow Aggies felt that way about me. But the next morning, I showed up and opened up the event with my story despite signs that read “Welcome to Aggieland where it’s okay to break the law and brag about it”. It was a nerve wrecking experience, and although I kept it together while I was up on the podium I was still scared literally waiting for ICE to come pick me up.
ICE didn’t come, obviously. And I was allowed to share my story. I told the crowd how I came when I was four because my dad lost his job and our home all in one day. I told them that my dad came to the United States alone first, but quickly came back because every time he called I cried for his return, and how we came with a visitor’s visa but overstayed our visit. I tried to make them understand that my parents didn’t come here out of luxury, but out of necessity and that this was our only option. I told them about the time my grandfather died and how my parents had to explain to me that we wouldn’t be able to go to his burial and how at the age of 11 I suffered the beginning pains of being invisible in a country that refuses to recognize us as its own when it is all we know.
Now, after having “come out of the shadows”, I have a new understanding of my life and have learned to embrace all that I am aside from being undocumented. Sometimes, being undocumented takes over our life and identity that we forget that we are more than just that, above all that we are a person and deserve to be treated as such.