A group of seven undocumented immigrants from Illinois sat down blocking the doors to the Broadview Detention Facility, linking arms together using pipes, chains, and locks. They were protesting the record-high deportations under President Obama, and the lack of leadership from Illinois representatives to call for a suspension of these deportations.
Ma. del Socorro Martinez Garcia, 41; Xanat Sobrevilla, 25; Miguel Martinez, 22; Stephanie Camba, 22; Jesús Morales, 24; Jose Martinez, 21; Hugo Dominguez, 23 are all here undocumented immigrants living in the state who have known family members, friends, or neighbors who have been deported or placed in detention. Their stories and bios are below:
Ma. del Socorro Martinez Garcia is a community member participating in the Latino Organization of the Southwest. She came to the United States 22 years ago to look for a better life, leaving her home of Coahuila, Mexico. She is a homemaker, a church volunteer and has four U.S. citizen children. She recently became involved in fighting for immigrant rights when a member of her community was facing deportation. She worked with the local organization to bring attention to this deportation and succeeded in getting a one year stay for Dina De La Paz. She says, “I felt that I was in her position. I wondered, what would happen to my children if I were to be deported. My children would not have me with them. Deportations are hurting mothers, fathers, entires families.”
Xanat Sobrevilla has been an organizer with the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL) since 2011. As a member of IYJL she has helped organize National Coming Out of the Shadows events in March, co-facilitated mental health workshops and “Shout It Outs” aimed at highlighting the importance of mental health advocacy for undocumented immigrants. She also shared her coming out as undocumented story in National Coming Out of the Shadows 2012.
Xanat emigrated from Mexico City at the age of nine along with her family in 1996 as a result of an economic recession greatly influenced by foreign policies, primarily the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). With the goal of providing a better future for their daughters, Xanat’s parents made the difficult decision to migrate to the U.S. and make multiple innumerable sacrifices. A 2009 graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor’s of Science in Integrative Biology, Xanat was part of the honors program and volunteered at Rush University Medial Center and hopes to attend medical school in the near future.
She says, “I am asking that President Obama issue an executive order to stop all deportation now. I am tired of living in fear of having my family separated at any moment. I am tired of seeing my community targeted, destroyed and aimlessly used as political pawns. I am tired of waiting for change when the President has the power to stop deportations now. I want people like Octavio Nava Cabrera, who has been in detention for a month, to be released and reunited with his loved ones who have been living in agony since the day ICE surrounded his house and took him.”
Stephanie Camba was born in Quezon City, Philippines in 1990. Her family left the Philippines for the Marshall Islands in groups, starting with her grandparents, older sister and aunt. In 1991, Stephanie and her mom joined her remaining family members in search of better economic opportunities. Stephanie’s family naturalized after 10 years in the Marshall Islands, but was unable to gain the full benefits of Marshallese citizenship because of the September 11 events, which precipitated their subsequent move to the U.S before the 5 year post naturalization requirement. The requirement was born from the Compact of Free Association (COFA), a treaty negotiated every decade that has offered limited promised benefits to the Marshallese population due to hardship from nuclear testing. On September 18, 2001 Stephanie and her family left for the U.S. on tourist B-1/B-2 visas due to restricted provisions like food and water in the Marshall Islands after September 11.
In the decade that followed, Stephanie succeeded in school and was accepted to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying Human Development and Family Studies. Stephanie believes she and her family are privileged to be in this U.S. with access to some critical services like education, but as an undocumented immigrant her opportunities have been limited by the nature of her status. Stephanie wishes the current debate on immigration to consider the push and pull factors that lead people to migrate, particularly the uneven economic opportunities across the world, many of which have been tied to U.S. foreign/economic policy. She believes that immigration is a complex narrative that cannot be encapsulated by terms like legal and illegal and is instead a “grey area that many of us live in, being in and out of status.”
Stephanie participated in the Immigrant Youth Justice League’s Coming out the Shadows event on March 10, 2013 and has decided to this civil disobedience because she values all families. Stephanie shared, “just because my family is not experiencing deportation directly, I think is important to think about the families who don’t have safety of seeing their loved ones again.”
Hugo Dominguez was born in Mexico City in 1989 and his family’s move to the United States began in 1998 when his mother made the difficult decision of risking her life by crossing the border in search of a job to help put food on the table for her three children. Hugo feels lucky that none of his immediate family has been deported and although he is happy because his father and younger brother are now legal residents of the United States, he fears that his mom and her husband will be in the wrong place at the wrong time and be put in deportation proceedings, leaving his two youngest siblings who are citizens of this country without a mother and/or a father.
Hugo believes that no family should have to ever go through the pain and fear of being separated from their loved ones for any reason and especially not as a result of their undocumented status in this country. He is currently attending Northeastern Illinois University and is majoring in Communications, media, and theater. He was skeptical about attending college because of his status but his father and older brother have always encouraged him to not give up and fight for his DREAMs.
Miguel Martinez a.k.a. Caiden vel, was brought to the United States at the age of three by his mother from Mexico. He has one younger brother and is a guitarist who loves to make his own sound. For Miguel, his biggest accomplishment has been to be able to keep his head up. He does not fear being undocumented and doesn’t want to ever feel such a way. He does want to live in a community where everyone is afraid nor does he desire for want his mom living her life in a cage. Milguel has seen his entire family work extremely hard to stay together and remain healthy. By taking part in this action he hopes to bring attention to the strength and perseverance of his family members.
According to Miguel, his reasons of doing civil disobedience are, “Since I was a kid most of my family tried to take care of me and I’ve seen them work really hard. Now that I’m older, I would like to do something for them. My knowledge of the current immigration situation has also influence my decision of taking part of this action, knowing they might not qualify. My family wouldn’t have appropriate documentation of their work history and could likely be cut off out the current immigration bill. This would leave them at high risk of being deported. I feel that I can do something to speak about this experience my family is facing”
Jesus Morales is an undocumented young man and has been living in the United States since the age of 4. His family migrated from Durango, México 20 years ago to look for a more secure and promising life. He has had to deal with knowing that he was undocumented from a young age. He soon realized that life here in the U.S. would never be the same for him as the life of his citizen friends.
At age 16 he tried to apply for a job as a life guard, but was rejected due to his status. The rejection depressed him and made him feel hopeless; he was rejected for the simple fact of not having a little card that has 9 numbers. Nine numbers separate him and millions of other undocumented youth from pursuing their dreams and goals in school and society. He has been working in the labor union since he turned 18 because he did not have the resources and guidance to further his education, but found that it was not the right job for him. Now he is hoping that in the future he can be presented an opportunity to go back to school so he can further his education and work in something he loves.
Jose Martinez: Jose Martinez is 20 years old and lives in Chicago, IL. He was born in Mexico City, Mexico and is an organizer with the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL). He is currently studying to become a researcher in a science field and his goals are to start a small business, become a researcher and possibly obtain a PhD. Nevertheless, an obstacle to those goals is a way for him to pay for college due to his undocumented status.
He says, “As an undocumented student, many of us first start to become aware about our status when we’re about to apply for college, when all our friends are getting their driver’s license, and other events that just pop out at you. For example, when I was in 8th grade I was unable to take part in our senior trip to another state because my parents feared my undocumented status would somehow affect me. In high school I was also part of an academic competition team at my school in which we ended up competing in nationals. As part of the competition we had to travel by airplane and my coach did not know about my undocumented status. To be undocumented, you often have fear in something that others see as ordinary or as no big deal, this often leads to fear closing doors or opportunities. Now, even though I qualify for the deferred action program, I know my family faces frustrations bigger than mine as a student. We should be able to live, work, and study without fear of deportations.”
The action was organized by a coalition of organization led by undocumented youth in the state, including Undocumented Illinois, the Immigrant Youth Justice League, the Latino Youth Action League of DuPage. For more information on the action and participants, please visitwww.iyjl.org/stopdeportations or follow us on twitter at @UndocuIL for updates.