Fanny Martinez is an undocumented student about to start her graduate degree at the University of Chicago. As she prepares to give this testimony today, her husband, a veteran, is flying from Afghanistan home. Fanny is one of the 8 undocumented youth who will be conducting a direct action and “coming out” rally at the Department of Homeland Security’s public hearing on Secure Communities in Chicago.
My name is Fanny and I am undocumented. I was born in Mexico City and I came to the U.S. nine years ago and I have lived here since then. We come from a lower class family, so my father was forced to immigrate to the U.S. because he was unable to find a stable job in Mexico. I was 10 years old when he left, and I remember missing him every day because we were very close. Two and a half years later, I crossed the border with my mother and my little sister. I was very happy because my family had reunited once again. When we arrived I was only 13 years old, so I never thought about what it would mean to become an undocumented immigrant. I did not even know what “undocumented” meant.
For the past nine years of my life, I have been living with fear and frustration every day. Since I started attending college my fears increased because I drive to and from school five days a week. Unlike students who have a driver’s license, I have to worry about getting stopped by the police and having my immigration status be reported to ICE. It’s very disappointing when I realize that I’m afraid to go to school because I don’t know if will be going back the next day. I don’t know about you, but I think that it’s unjust that youth who are trying to get an education are being arrested and/or deported due to the existence of programs like “Secure Communities.”
“Secure Communities” affects my family as well. My husband David is an army veteran. He has been in the Army Reserve for eight years and is currently flying home from Afghanistan. As a result of my immigration status, our lives have been very difficult, and even more with his deployment. Obviously, my husband is constantly worried about my status in the country. He knows that I am always at risk of being placed in deportation proceedings and he is afraid of not seeing his wife once he gets home. I cannot believe that he has to go through this struggle even though he has served this country and put his life at risk for a year. The least he deserves is to have the confidence that his wife will be safe while he is gone. Unfortunately, the same country for which he is fighting is the same that might deport his wife under programs like “Secure Communities.”
Moreover, as a Latina I know that I’m at higher risk of being arrested since this program has been shown to have connections to racial profiling. “Secure Communities” is a program that makes us feel less safe. We can no longer trust the police because we know that they can be the ones sending us to ICE. We are angry because we know that 78 percent of those who are arrested in IL under “Secure communities” are non-criminals.
I am tired of hearing about relatives and friends who are stopped by the police for minor traffic violations and then are put on deportation proceedings. Every time I think about this situation, I feel terrified because I know that it only takes a day for “Secure Communities” to take away my opportunity to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago, to separate me from my family, and to destroy my future. My husband and I don’t want to be separated. We do not want to live in fear anymore. We believe that we deserve to live with dignity. We are human beings and we demand respect and justice.
Fanny is an organizer with the Latin@ Youth Action League, working out of DuPage County.