“There is really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” ~ Arundhati Roy
Right now, as you read this, there are over 100 women leaders gathered in DC to participate in a Women’s Action for Fair immigration Reform with We Belong Together. 100 women from all walks of life have stepped up to stand together, make our voices heard and submit to arrest in order to demand that the House of Representatives take action to pass immigration reform that will be fair and inclusive for women, our families and our communities.
You can watch the action live at: www.americasvoiceonline.org/livestream
Truth be told I am scared, but excited. I could never participate in civil disobedience in the past because of my status. Back then, we were definitely undocumented and afraid. Hell, I was a permanent resident and afraid. I could never participate in civil disobedience because I knew it could impact me on my immigration application to become a US Citizen. You never know how an immigration officer is going to react when you tell him you’ve been arrested for protesting Columbus Day and ridiculously ancient and unjust immigration laws. I couldn’t chance it, so I always served as a legal observer. But I always knew I would and here I am today. Plus, the DREAMers inspired me from the moment they took the capitol in 2010 and the incredible DREAM 9 who got arrested and detained and left in solitary confinement.
I am doing this today because I want to honor the women in my family who have all come to this country in search of a better life for our family. From my mother to my aunts, cousins and grandmother, they have demonstrated courage every day in their roles as mothers, wives/partners, workers and community leaders.
I watched my mother and my aunts work 2-3 jobs just so we could have food on our table, sports/band uniforms and live a normal “American” life. (Yes, I was in marching band and I rocked it. Shut up). Both of my parents taught me to work for my dreams and to never give up, but my mother was the original entrepreneur of our family and she knew how to hustle! From working her multiple jobs to her basement nail salon, she was an impressive businesswoman.
I remember many late nights helping her study for her citizenship exam, nail technician exam and finally her insurance exam. What was always so impressive was that she would come home from work, then get to studying right away. She didn’t always know what some words meant, but it never discouraged her and she never gave up. Sometimes she would have to take these exams multiple times but it never phased her. Later on in life, she would remind me of those failures as I cried on the phone to her about not passing the bar exam. Each time, she would say, “It’s ok, remember how long it took me to pass my insurance exam? It happens, we keep trying. It’s ok to fail.”
But the failure that I felt was because I felt like I had let my family down, especially my parents. I’ve watched my family work hard to move forward and it is with them in mind that I get arrested today.
I cannot imagine the pain of losing a loved one to deportation and having to have only one parent or sometimes NO parents around to sustain, support and love their children. Each day, families are torn being torn apart because of our archaic immigration policies and a system that refuses to honor executive orders to stop detaining and deporting low priority immigrants.
Women and children are the heart of the immigration debate. Three quarters of all immigrants to the United States are women and children. 20 million immigrants are women, and of these, as many as 5.6 million have been left out of a pathway to citizenship. Our family immigration system has been the primary way that women can get legal entry to the United States and yet currently 4.5 million people wait in the backlog to be reunited with their families. 200,000 parents have been forced to leave a child behind because of unfair deportations. At the workplace, at home and in the community, immigrant women suffer intolerable violence and abuse.
And yet, while immigrant women disproportionately bear the burden of this failed system, they contribute to our nation through their multiple roles by keeping our families together and our communities strong. Immigrant woman continue to contribute to society and show tremendous courage. Yet, this contributions and their courage are not being matched by our lawmakers in Washington DC. The House of Representatives has yet to show courage of its own to act on the mandate to pass an inclusive and common sense immigration reform bill.
So, here I am, probably arrested by now and thinking about my 75 year-old abuelita roommate that just got arrested with me too. (She’s with Voces de la Frontera and I am rooming with her and her granddaughter. I love them!) It takes courage to stand up for your families, your community and to unite our country. I am here today to show how important it is that we have courage as a nation. I am standing up for the millions of immigrant women and families across the country who contribute every day to our society. Through this action I am saying – the TIME IS NOW! I demand the House of Representatives have the courage to pass immigration reform that treats women fairly and keeps our families united.
Now, here’s where you can help and join. Join others across the country in affirming your commitment to immigration reform and women’s equality! Demand that House members show the same commitment by passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill that treats women fairly by taking and signing this oath.
P.S. Thank you to my Mami & Papi for not freaking out. I know the last thing you wanted me to do was get arrested in our nation’s capitol, but it’s your fault for making me believe I could do and be anything I wanted to be. Plus, you instilled in me a sense of justice and love for our community that this wasn’t even an option. If you are going to be mad, be mad at yourselves.
Thank you to my bad-ass hubs for his encouragement and support and for reminding me to have a bold and powerful experience and to please not run or resist arrest. He also joked and said, “If they pepper spray you, pull out your tortillas and enjoy it!” Then he had a very somber look and reminded me that he was nervous for me but excited. I love you and this is also your fault because you support my crusade for justice in our community. So again, be mad at yourself or call my parents and be mad at each other.
Thank you to my in-laws for not freaking out either. This is also your fault because you told me about your 60s and 70s protest and it made me want to go protest and relive those glory days. So, be mad at yourself too.