For the past six months, I’ve been coming to terms with my decision to leave the United States and return to Mexico. Because while I am incredibly grateful and feel very fortunate to have had the experience of living in the United States because of the ways in which it allowed me to conceptualize in previously unimaginable ways a more progressive future and to genuinely believe in the possibility of a more respectful, interdependent and conscious world, there came a point when my eyes were opened to the myth behind the surreal American dream. But every so often, politics like to shake me up.
In the last five years, I’ve been sheltered and nurtured by an incredibly progressive circle of friends and allies who’ve fed fuel to the fire of my ideals, people who believe like me that the stigma and criminalization of marginalized populations is ill-intentioned, out of focus, and counterproductive to the fabric of society. People who understand that through proper support founded on a culture of genuine concern and understanding, an individual’s infinite potential can be garnered and society can thus develop in a sustainable manner that respects and addresses the needs of all its constituents. Yet the reality I’ve lived in the United States is the ultimate contradiction to my ideals. My place here in society, which I like to metaphorically see as being at the top of the bottom of a totem pole, is something I am constantly reminded of. Real and dehumanizing challenges constantly arise because I am undocumented, but I am also aware that the privilege of graduating from Columbia affords me a much more comfortable place in society than many other people, particularly individuals within my community.
Yet I now know not to get comfortable, and not to let my guard down, even as some of my obstacles seem to have dissipated and my dreams have come closer to fruition, because as this has happened, my immediate family has had its stability uprooted, dispersing throughout the United States in an attempt to escape the persecution of e-verify, 287g and Secure Communities. My mother and I have had sleepless nights where we had to mobilize and take immediate action in response to each of my brothers getting arrested, to prevent them being identified by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, nights during which it became painfully real that to be an undocumented woman of color is a privilege compared to the experience my brother’s face on a daily basis, simply because as a woman, though I may be racially profiled, that does not come with the additional perception of a threat, thus producing unwarranted police involvement.
While I’d like to shout for joy at this announcement of “Deferred Action Process for Young People Who Are Low Enforcement Priorities,” which seems beamed down from an enlightened source, I’m hesitant. Perhaps because after eight years of activism within this particular movement, I’m used to the disappointment and broken promises that have rained down from politicians, from a very close call for the Federal DREAM Act at the end of 2010 to last summer’s Morton Memo, which ultimately proved to be a worthless appeasement. Had the Morton Memo held fast to its promises, there would be no DREAM Act-eligible youth facing deportation proceedings today.
Right now to me, this seems like little more than a political ploy by a president seeking re-election who’s faced increasing pressure from undocumented youth to do something, pressure which ultimately resulted in various of his campaign offices shutting down after they were occupied by undocumented activists who resolved not to leave unless an executive order were to be issued or they were arrested. These pressures in a sense forced Obama to do the right thing. And for that I’m touched, because as I watched his remarks on this new announcement, I realized that he thoroughly understands what it means to feel morally obliged, to do the “right thing”, even as ignorance bombards, as made obvious by the reporter attempting to argue with the president.
But I cannot say that the president has regained my trust, or that this announcement has sparked hope. Buckling under pressure is not a sign of strength. What has sparked hope and garnered my unconditional support and confidence is the work of undocumented youth the country over who have dropped the fear and claimed their value, giving a megaphonic voice where before there was an eerie silence gripping the undocumented community. To them, and to organizations such as NLIRH which value and understand the struggle of marginalization and overcoming fear, I am eternally grateful. Through their leadership and examples of strength, I’ve found my voice, and it’s liberating. Hopefully this announcement is genuine and the voice of undocumented individuals continues to get louder. However, it takes an understanding and strong recognition that this is not the time to rest or preemptively celebrate. We still have much, much work to do.
- Rosario Quiroz, DREAMer and NLIRH Community Mobilization Fellow