I’ve been hearing some version of this statement a lot lately: “Undocumented youth are not to blame for their parent’s crimes/mistakes/actions. It’s not their fault, they should not have to pay the price.”
So who should? My parents?
I am undocumented. I came to the U.S. when I was young, and like many others, I have had to grapple with the obstacles that come with having no legal status. I have felt, and continue to feel, the frustrations of not being able to travel or apply to scholarships, as well as the constant worry that “technically” immigration could put me in deportation proceedings at any moment.
And I know that it was my parent’s decision to move across the border…
But #1: My parents left their entire families. I some times get to see how hard it is for them, and how they miss their parents, brothers, sisters, friends every day. Leaving home, and risking life in an unknown country is a hard decision. I know my parents would not have made it if it had not been necessary, and a result of the conditions under which we live.*
But #2: It is not my parents who are placing restrictions on my/our life. I am well aware that it is the U.S. immigration laws that state that I cannot get federal aid for going to college, that I cannot work even if I am qualified, and that if I travel outside the country I cannot come home again. It is the laws that are wrong, not my parents.
But #3: I know that it’s not just personal, no undocumented immigrant has access to these. I am in the fight for immigrant rights because I believe in justice and human rights, including the right for people to work, have an education, and a life with happiness and dignity. Therefore, I also believe that as undocumented immigrants my parents are the people who I am fighting for. And I believe that just like me, they have a right to live, work, and grow in the country that is now also their home.
So, to those of us who are undocumented, who came here young, I ask you: Let’s stand in solidarity with our parents, families and our communities to fight together for our rights. Let’s challenge people when they fail to realize that the injustices that we are facing are a direct result of the laws and conditions that we live under. Let’s realize that ourselves, and not be ashamed of being undocumented, or of our parents, who are all workers who contribute to the economy, and to the social fabric of our communities, like other immigrants.
Everyone else. Know that these injustices reflect a need to change the broken laws so that there is a path to legalization for all of us. And please, stop blaming my parents, and let’s work together to change the laws.
Written by a member of the Immigrant Youth Justice League.
* Ironically, these conditions are often a result of U.S. and international policy. Our communities are often poor as a result of Free Trade Agreements made with the U.S, or exploitation of workers, resources, and industry by developed countries. And so we move north, looking for better conditions.