When Dreamers decided to step out and speak up about immigration, they put a face on the issue of undocumented youth, which many credit with helping propel President Obama‘s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and passing Dream Act legislation in certain states, as well as making it a national issue. But in events around the country this weekend and the rest of the month, the undocumented speakers won’t be Dreamers – it will be their parents and grandparents.
“No hay peor lucha que la que no se hace – there is no worst fight than the one not waged,” says Fanny Elizabeth González, a Tennessee undocumented mother of 4 teens and young adults, who will be addressing a crowd in Nashville at one of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network’s (NDLON) “Coming Out of the Shadows” events this month. González was pulled over for a traffic stop and was detained in an ICE hold. She was released but has a month before she has to return to Mexico. Though she hopes to get prosecutorial discretion, González says she will speak at the rally regardless of the outcome. “Immigration reform is what we are hoping and seeking, and my family supports my decision to speak out,” she says, adding, “I came to work and ensure my kids get ahead.”
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, (CHIRLA), also announced today that 50 undocumented immigrant families from California and 20 other states will travel to Washington in a few days and participate in legislative visits. “Isabel is a nurse assistant by trade, a mom by love, and an immigration reform advocate by desperation,” says the CHIRLA press release about one of the participants. “Isabel will be joined by her 17-year-old son, Christian…Late last year, Christian was granted Deferred Action and this week he started receiving college accetance letters,” says the statement.
Chris Newman, Legal Director for the NDLON, says that “one of the ways in which the debate has changed is that immigrants themselves are their own best advocates. In the end, when you cut through the politics, the moral power of people arguing for their own citizenship is what’s giving force to the immigrant rights movement,” Newman states. “We are encouraged by the enthusiasm of people fighting their deportations.”
Political scientist Stella Rouse, who teaches politics and government at the University of Maryland and is the author of the upcoming book Latinos in the Legislative Process: Interests and Influence, says it is not surprising that undocumented families and immigrants rights groups are stepping out at this time. “Immigration is like no other issue in bringing Latinos together, and now that we are seeing the fruit of that labor – getting the Dream Act passed in some states, possible success with comprehensive immigration reform – this is contributing to a sustained momentum of Latino solidarity,” she says.
Undocumented families have an increasing share of the American public on their side. Four out of five Americans support a path to citizenship for the nation’s undocumented, according to a recent bipartisan poll.
In a rally in Miami Dade College today, Congressman Joaquín Castro said “the voices of undocumented immigrants are sorely needed to continue to push the comprehensive immigration debate forward. America needs to hear these stories.”