On February 17th, 2012, I flew down to El Paso, Texas with numerous organizations for Human Rights Training that was done by the very well organized and amazing Border Network for Human Rights. Fernanda Marroquin, Erin Cusack, David Bennion and I had the honor and privilege to meet and learn from other organizers on how they will be moving forward in our fight for Human Rights. I am writing this because I want to share my experience my sister, Fernanda, and I had when we went down to the Border as undocumented youth. After having our training and meeting amazing people, everyone presented their groups to the crowd and shared how they organize with their communities or what they’re currently working on. That same Sunday, February 19th, I knew we were going to be heading to Border Patrol, and that’s where I begin my story.
Border Patrol, a completely different institution than ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was going to give a presentation about what they do to “protect our country.” Fernanda and I went into Border Patrol wearing our “I am Undocumented” t-shirts, which many of the organizers were nervous about. We both knew that we might not get that chance to walk right into the mouth of the tiger, as many call it. For some reason, I wasn’t scared at all. Before entering Border Patrol, I was shown where the Detention Facility was held, a horrific place where many members from our communities are placed as they await deportation. Once we entered Border Patrol, we all sat in a room where a Supervisor Border Patrol Agent, Demetrio L. Guerra, was standing in ready to give his presentation. He was a U.S. born citizen, but used to live in Mexico and is of Mexican descent, which made me even angrier.
We all began introducing ourselves by saying our name and our organization. I remember when he got to my sister, who presented herself without being afraid or ashamed of her status: “My name is Fernanda; I’m undocumented and a member of DreamActivist Pennsylvania.” After she said that, Mr. Guerra said: “I’m gonna pick on you just a little bit more.” I could feel some of the allies in the room were on the edge of their seats, but we both were not, we were calm but at the same time, angry on how he didn’t even detain us. Why you may ask? Because if he saw someone else that didn’t have any organizers around them, or someone that wasn’t so out and unafraid about their status, he would arrest them without thinking twice. After Mr. Guerra gave his presentation, it was time to go. I saw that he was standing outside talking to some of the folks from other groups; I went up to him and started up a conversation. He told me: “I don’t get it, why are you wearing that shirt? It’s very risky; I don’t recommend you go to the airport while wearing that.” I replied: “We know there’s a risk, but it’s our goal to empower our community to not be afraid anymore. We’re tired of hearing about families being separated, which is why I came here. Yeah, the border is right behind me, but I’m not afraid. The more our community comes out, the safer they’ll be.” We went back and forth for a few more minutes, until it was time to go.
That was it. He did tell me how “inspired” he was by what we had done, walking into Border Patrol. I wasn’t buying it. Everything was sugar-coated. We should have been detained, but because we had that support behind us, we weren’t. I learned a lot in El Paso, but our communities are still living in fear, especially here in Pennsylvania. That is why I encourage not just the youth, but the parents, to not be afraid anymore, not be ashamed of yourselves, and take back your Human Rights. We ALL have them. It’s time to come out of the shadows and fight back. Take action. You are not alone.
Jessica Hyejin Lee and Tania Chairez, two undocumented youth from Pennsylvania, were arrested by the Philadelphia Police today after blocking the street in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Field Office. Before their arrest, Jessica and Tania had entered the ICE Philadelphia Field Office building and declared their undocumented status. Unafraid of deportation, they acted to confront the unjust immigration system, reclaim their human rights, and call attention to the deportations that are tearing apart their communities. To learn more about the action and their cause, check here: http://dreamactivistpa.org/