Carla: Refusing to address a problem that plagues us, doesn’t make it go away

On March 10th, 2011 Chicago held it’s second annual National Coming Out of the Shadows. Ten undocumented youth told their stories of living in the U.S. undocumented, and becoming unafraid and unapologetic. Carla is one of those youth, a college student, and one of our IYJL organizers. This was her testimony:

Carla, coming out of the shadows.

As a helpless five year-old, clutching the hands of my mother and father, I never dreamt of living a life entrenched in fear and shame. Neither did my parents when they uprooted my sisters and me from our quiet life in the Philippines to come to America–the land of plenty, the land of freedom. But for the greater part of the 17 years I’ve lived in this country that I call home, I have been afraid.

When I was 11 years old, a distant relative threatened to report my family to Immigration Services because we overstayed our visas and were now out of status. The thought of deportation prompted my family to flee our home and leave behind everything–my parents’ jobs, my school, our friends–with little hope of ever coming back. We spent over a month and a half in hiding until we felt safe enough to return. From then on, my parents told me never to tell anyone about our status.

I grew up feeling lesser than others, but my undocumented status only pushed me to work 10 times harder to prove that I matter and deserve the life my parents sacrificed to give me. I did and continue to do what I think is right to make my parents proud and to persevere through all the obstacles in my education. And thus far, I have no regrets.

But that’s not to say I fully accept my situation. No, I still cry. I still cry for the dreams suspended in limbo as I reach with all my might yet remain constrained and stuck in place. I still cry because I feel like an anomaly in my own community.

In the Asian American community, we don’t openly talk about being undocumented in fear of bringing shame to our families and ourselves. But refusing to address a problem that plagues us, too, doesn’t make it go away.

To all the dreamers out there in my community, to all the young people hiding out in your bedrooms wishing with all your heart that something would change, that this country would finally recognize YOU as an American and allow you a chance at a REAL future, all I can say is: you can’t wish for change, nor can you go at it by yourself.

The time is now to emerge from the shadows because you are not alone. Come out of the shadows and take action. Be honest with yourself and those around you. Reclaim your identity and accept yourself, regardless of discrimination and hate. Look at yourself in the mirror, in the eyes, and say, “I am undocumented, but I am not ashamed.”

My name is Carla. I am undocumented. I am unafraid. And I am unapologetic.

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