An Undocumented Immigrant Reflects on 2013: No Immigration Reform, But the Movement Keep Building

Community organizer, and soon to be high school teacher, Cesar Juarez shares both the current political realities and future aspirations of the movement for immigration reform.

(The author leading a rally for immigrants rights.)

Immigrant rights groups gave a good fight, but immigration reform didn’t happen this year. There’s nothing surprising about immigration reform not passing because House Republicans repeatedly stated their intent to block it. We won various victories in many states, including in California. The disillusion of years of heartbreak takes a toll on people. A consequence I’ve experienced like many undocumented people is becoming immune to the negativity of nothing happening. The pain is there but we move on to our everyday life. For many families it’s very difficult to move on due having a love one deported. Close to two million deportations have occurred under the Obama administration.

As an undocumented person in the movement for close to ten years I have learned that we need to continue educating, organizing and mobilizing our community to create change. Each year we grow stronger and closer to passing immigration reform. What I’ve heard from some members of my community is that some don’t understand why those in power don’t open their hearts and do the right thing. 

Let’s be honest, legalizing those that have been risking deportation by being public about their undocumented status and have been active trying to change unjust laws have the potential to disrupt those in power that promote cruel economic policies. The same policies that hurt the poor and working-class and take this country to unjust war to profit the few. Those in power know that their power and political ideology is in danger. We already have the leadership experience to be the future elected and non-elected leaders as soon they gain legal status. Many already are leaders in our community. Those millions of people that are undocumented know what it means to be oppressed and dehumanized and will take this country in a different direction.

A clear example of us already challenging the status quo are the over six hundred thousand young individuals without legal status that now have employment authorization via Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Soon over a million will be in the same situation. These individuals without legal status but with employment authorization are becoming, among many other professions, teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, lawyers, union members and organizers, and small business owners. We are shaping our communities already. 

Another clear example of us resisting the status quo is our commitment of risking everything to raise the issue. From what the DREAM 9 and DREAM 30 did this year to stopping deportations through civil disobedience.

Early this year I was granted employment authorization under DACA. Making the decision to apply for DACA was very difficult. It took four months after the implementation for me to submit my application. I hesitated because employment was not the issue. The issue has been that we want to be treated as human beings— to fully participate in our society. 

Next year I’ll be a high school teacher. My lesson plans will include issues of oppression like racism, patriarchy and poverty, and how people have fought back with values of community-building, empowerment and love. My hope is for my students to organize their peers to take action. In other words, the movement will continue growing. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” I will be teaching my students that it bends towards justice because those who are oppressed and our allies bend it towards justice. Let’s continue fighting so undocumented immigrants one day soon could be full citizens!

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