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art by Favianna Rodriguez

Art by Favianna Rodriguez

“ Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. ” – Paulo Freire, Educator

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JULY 31, 2013 / BY Immigration Reform in the Los Angeles Area
As immigration reform takes center stage, many of us undocumented folks have taken a step back to reflect what immigration reform means for us and how it could possibly change not only our lives, but the future of this nation.

Los Angeles seems to be indicative of the future of all metropolitan areas in the United States. You have your affluent areas dotted with immigrant laborers upkeeping the landscape or working out of sight and out of mind, and you have the working class areas inhabited by these behind-the-scenes laborers.

The folks in Los Angeles don’t kid themselves. It’s hard. It’s a nightmare, getting from job to job, utilizing one of the nation’s worst public transportation systems. Getting around Los Angeles without a car (and arguably, WITH a car) is a journey that requires zen patience, extra foresight, extra time that nobody can spare, and a sense of calm in case a calamity throws off your entire bus/life schedule.

But many must do it. They have no choice. A 4:30am bus ride is just a small price to pay when taking bigger-picture stuff into consideration. For instance, a two hour busride to a place of employment is better than a busride from a detention center to Tijuana.

So what does immigration reform mean for undocumented immigrants? Is it a shortsighted compromise for immediate relief for those who are already here, or is it a strategic step towards something as idealistic as getting rid of borders altogether? Is it a way to advance towards security for one’s family, a path towards self-realization? Or is it a glass ceiling of citizenship disguised with legislative language that hides a sinister agenda?

Xavier*, a student at California State University Fresno, describes immigration reform to mean “a house, a driver’s license, heath care, education, and keeping families together.” Having grown up part of his life in Mexico without his father present (his father had immigrated into the United States to help support his family), he knows that families need to stay together.

Isabel, a plant worker, has undergone many hardships in adjusting to her life here in the United States. After working as a field hand and a domestic worker for a number of years, she finally landed a job in a plant in the Los Angeles area, where she met and married her husband, Eraclio. They had two children. One day, Eraclio’s plant was raided by ICE, and all undocumented workers lost their jobs and were placed in deportation proceedings. This created a lot of hardships for the young family. Isabel states that immigration reform includes the opportunity for citizenship for undocumented immigrants for the sake of staying in the United States to care for her two children.

Then there is the story of Geo, the younger brother of a prominent DREAMer who died in a car accident near Columbia University. He recently received his DACA, and is currently the only person in his family who has some sort of documentation. This past year, Geo had too choose between going to school for a semester, or continue working, as his family could not afford to help pay for his DACA application. He chose to work and pay for his DACA. He finds hope and courage from the work his older sister did in the undocumented youth movement, and hopes that CIR would grant him permission to travel to Mexico legally to see his father, whom he hasn’t seen in many years.

Xavier, Isabel, and Geo are all organized and working with different advocacy groups in the Los Angeles area fighting for immigration reform and to halt the criminalization of undocumented immigrants in the Los Angeles area. It gives them hope that they can one day stop worrying about not coming home to their families in the United States at the end of the day, to not make life decisions when it comes to choosing between furthering their education or paying for an immigration application, and being able to cross borders to visit family.

Immigration reform, without all the punitive persecution, would help make all their aspirations and dreams come true.

*all subjects are only referred to by their first names to protect their identity.