“We should not live scared of the everyday”

Speech from Jose Martinez, IYJL organizer at the May 1, 2012 march in Chicago. Photo by Sarah Ji.

Hello everyone. My name is José Alberto Martinez, and I am undocumented.

We are gathered here today from various organizations and groups, each representing a slightly different group of people and ideas, but we are all here united under one common goal of trying to effect political change, and doing so under the freedom granted to us in the U.S. Constitution.

We wish to make conditions better for those who are often underrepresented and we cannot do that without us coming together, like we have today, and demanding to be heard. We might be different cultures, groups, and races, but under all that we are the same. We are American. And today, although it may seem that we are making more strides towards tolerance, we still have many obstacles ahead of us and progress yet to make.

Despite also calling this country home, and being Americans in every sense but that of documents,
undocumented people who have lived here all or most of their lives, like me, are still not allowed to be in this country.

New anti immigrant laws are popping up all over the country, often hiding racial profiling and discriminatory policies under the guise of law.

Recently the Supreme Court has begun hearing the case on Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070 law, which would allow police to stop people based on a suspicion that they are undocumented. Laws like this are clearly anti immigrant and discriminatory, and pose a challenge to our civil rights. They are made possible by a view of us as some nameless shapeless other, which allows them to hate and discriminate us by making us something less than human, to which any label or blame can be placed.

I wish to tell you that I am a person. I am not an object or idea! And I am more than just a word.

I want to continue my studies, without fearing whether I will be able to afford the next semester, or whether I will even be in this country. Without fearing for my family and friends in the same situation. Without fearing whether my status will close as many doors for me as those that open. And without fearing to disclose my situation to certain friends or colleagues, wondering what it could bring to them or me. All I ask for is an avenue for us to contribute to this country’s economy, technology, and future, as it is also our home.

My aunt died nearly two months ago, and was buried in Michoacan, Mexico. I could not be there. (to emphasize since it’s a speech, not people reading it) It still reminds me of my great grandmother’s death, and how then, as now I could not visit their burials. I feel disconnected from these realities (this is strong, let it sink in, don’t rush), sad and frustrated by their unfairness. And it is experiences like this that reaffirm the injustice of our current immigration system. I speak to you today, despite my fears and doubts. The undocumented should not live in fear of the everyday.

We should all be the outraged voice against injustice, in all its angry forms, by taming our grievances not into anger, but reasoned representation in our vote and voice. Not only to prevent discriminatory policies and actions, but to preserve the few rights we do have. We must not remain silent.

My name is José. I’m undocumented. Unafraid. And unapologetic.

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