Culture

My Name Is Cindy. I’m Undocumented. I Can Make A Difference.

In this personal essay series, we hear from the people who would — and in some cases already have — benefit from DACA and DAPA. This is Cindy’s story.


Many of you have heard the term “DREAMers” — those who arrived to the U.S. as children without lawful status. My name is Cindy, and I’m a DREAMer.

I’ve had the opportunity to take part in community actions to support immigrants and students who, like me, encountered many tribulations due to their legal status. Through my civic engagement, I’ve found a passion for policy, politics and our legislative system. It was here in New Mexico that I began a lonely road to becoming the “political advocate” I wanted to be, to represent and inform our communities and students across the state.

This wasn’t always seen as a good thing. I’ve been judged, criticized, screamed at and offended many times because of others’ dissatisfaction with what I was doing.

I remember once standing at the state capitol, speaking to a woman I had viewed as an ally and mentor who became outraged that I was not doing what she asked. She called me a traitor, claiming I had no connection to my roots and that I didn’t understand the struggle of my communities. This woman is an educated U.S. citizen who holds a doctorate degree and lives a financially comfortable life, and she was accusing me of not knowing the struggle and of forgetting my roots. Rather than respond to attacks, I learned I was better off investing my time learning a system that has disenfranchised so many of our communities across the country for far too long.

It wasn’t until June 2015 that I went public with my legal status, when I became the first DREAMer to serve as an intern for the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Being one of the few DREAMers to be as visible and as politically active as I’ve become hasn’t been easy. I’ve felt intimidated and confused many times. However, my passion and commitment to support immigrant students and families has always been my driving force.

And while it may have not been easy, it has been truly empowering.


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Credit: Courtesy of Cindy Nava-Miramontes

There have been times when I’d look around and wonder how many other young people working at the legislature, the halls of Congress or the Democratic National Committee were working for free like I was. How many of them were undocumented? The answer answer was, unfortunately and far too frequently, “no one else.”

How many of them worried about how they would pay tuition? How many of them worried about having enough gas to drive to the Capitol? Who else worried about what to say or how to speak? I’ve wished there was a “help” button to answer those questions. But the truth is that the path I’m on has not been fully cleared for me to walk upon. It is up to me to clear the road less traveled for undocumented students interested in policy and politics.

I recall a day that a driver’s license bill was to be heard on the Senate floor, and I decided to stay to listen. Thanks to the New Mexico majority leader, I was able to sit on the Senate floor, right next to his chair, and join him eating popcorn and hot tamales as heavy attacks and accusations began to fly from right-wing members. I can still see the face of a legislator who claimed that all undocumented immigrants were here to steal jobs and to live off the government. He said that undocumented immigrants were thieves and did not deserve to be here.

One could imagine that after hearing all of those harsh and personally demoralizing comments I should have been crying, but instead I sat there analyzing the facts: I was there interning for free. My parents have never received government money. My parents held up to three jobs in order to raise my siblings and me. It was at this moment that I reaffirmed the need for me to be there, and the importance of understanding the systems in order to create durable and permanent change.

Whether you are working behind the scenes, serving as scholar activists, working the front lines of rallies and demonstrations, working within educational institutions to change systems or serving as advocates to change policies and laws through legislative action, it is important to have advocates at all levels to set a strong and ethical example for the leaders of tomorrow. We must support and serve as true and genuine visionary leaders who remember where we came from and where we are going.

In the faces of the women cleaning the floors of Congress, I will forever see my mother’s reflection, and in the hands of the many construction workers across our immigrant nation, I will forever see my father’s life.

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Report Shows That Immigration Narratives on TV Are Latinx-Focused and Over-Emphasize Crime

Entertainment

Report Shows That Immigration Narratives on TV Are Latinx-Focused and Over-Emphasize Crime

The media advocacy group Define American recently released a study that focused on the way immigrant characters are depicted on television. The second-annual study is entitled “Change the Narrative, Change the World”.

Although the study reports progress in some areas of onscreen representation, there is still a long way to go.

For example, the study reported that half of the immigrant characters depicted on television are Latino, which is consistent with reality. What is not consistent with reality, however, is how crime-related storylines are still an overrepresented theme in these storylines.

The study shows that on television 22% of immigrant characters have crime storylines show up as part of their narratives. These types of storylines further pedal the false narrative that immigrants are criminals, when in reality, they’re just everyday people who are trying to lives their best lives. Ironically, this statistic is an improvement on the previous year’s statistics in which crime themes made up 34% of immigrants’ stories on TV.

These numbers are further proof that the media feels stories of Latino immigration have to be about sadness and hardship in order to be worth watching.

According to Define American’s website, their organization believes that “powerful storytelling is the catalyst that can reshape our country’s immigration narrative and generate significant cultural change.”

They believe that changing the narratives depicted in entertainment media can “reshape our country’s immigration narrative and generate significant cultural change.” 

“We wanted to determine if seeing the specific immigration storylines influenced [viewers’] attitudes, behavior, or knowledge in the real world,” said Sarah Lowe, the associate director of research and impact at Define American to Variety. “And we were reassured and inspired to see the impact it had.” 

Define American’s founder, Jose Antonio Vargas, is relatively optimistic about the study’s outcomes, saying that the report has “some promising findings” and the numbers “provide [him] with hope”. He added that there are still “many areas in which immigrant representation can improve”.

via Getty Images

Namely, Vargas was disappointed in television’s failure to take an intersectional approach to immigration in regards to undocumented Black immigrants. 

“Black undocumented immigrants are detained and deported at higher rates than other ethnic groups,” Vargas told Variety. “But their stories are largely left off-screen and left out of the larger narrative around immigration.” 

“Change the Narrative, Change the World” also showed that Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants are also under-represented on television compared with reality. Also worth noting, male immigrants were over-represented on television compared to reality, while immigrants with disabilities were also under-represented.

The study also showed that when viewers are exposed to TV storylines that humanize immigrants, they’re more likely to take action on immigration issues themselves. 

The effect that fictional entertainment narratives have on viewers further proves that representation does, indeed, matter. What we watch as entertainment changes the way we think about other people’s lived experiences. And that, in turn, can change the world.

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A Group Of TPS Beneficiaries Are Touring The Country In A Bus To Save The Crucial Immigration Program

Things That Matter

A Group Of TPS Beneficiaries Are Touring The Country In A Bus To Save The Crucial Immigration Program

tps_alliance / Instagram

Updated September 23, 2020

A coalition of people is coming together to stand up for Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries. Federal judges recently gave the Trump administration the approval to end the status for 300,000 people in the U.S.

A group of Temporary Protect Status holders is on a road trip to save the program for 300,000 people.

The National TPS Alliance is driving across the country to engage voters about the need to protect the program. The “Road to Justice” road tour started in Los Angeles and will be stopping in 54 cities in 32 states. The tour ends in Washington, D.C. where the TPS holders will petition Congress directly to save the program.

The program was started in 1990 and offers safe refuge for people who’s countries have experienced disaster, civil unrest, or other extraordinary circumstances. Some people who have been granted TPS in the U.S. include Central Americans after Hurricane Mitch, the second-largest hurricane in the Atlantic, devastated large swaths of the region in 1998. Haitians were also given TPS after the earthquake that devastated Port Au Prince in 2010.

The organization is hoping to engage voters and get them to care about the immigration crisis facing the nation. Activists have already praised the group and pledged to support their cause at the ballot box.

“We are going to vote for justice, for the TPS community,” Angélica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, told NBC News. “President (Trump) and his administration are racist and do not care about the damage they are causing to our community.”

Original: A federal court just handed a huge ‘victory’ to the Trump administration, which has been eager to restart mass deportations. Despite a global health pandemic, the administration has been pressing forward with plans to deport hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants.

Until now, many of these migrants were safe from deportation thanks to Temporary Protected Status, which shields some immigrants from deportation under humanitarian claims. However, the recent court decision – in San Francisco’s 9th Circuit – gives Trump exactly what he wants right before the elections.

But how will it affect immigrant communities across the country? Here’s everything you need to know about this major decision.

The 9th Circuit Court just ended TPS for more than 300,000 undocumented immigrants.

A California appeals court on Monday gave the Trump Administration permission to end Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan, clearing the way for officials to force more than 300,000 immigrants out of the country.

The decision affects people from all walks of life, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades, have U.S.-born children and have been considered essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

This week’s ruling from the circuit court comes after a district court (also in California) temporarily halted Trump’s plan to end TPS in late 2018 after a group of lawyers sued, arguing that Trump was motivated by racial discrimination.

“The president’s vile statements about TPS holders made perfectly clear that his administration acted out of racial animus,”Ahilan Arulanantham, a lawyer for the ACLU of Southern California, wrote in a statement. “The Constitution does not permit policy to be driven by racism. We will seek further review of the court’s decision.”

But today’s 2-1 decision reversed the district court’s temporary order and allowed the federal government to take away TPS protections while the court case continues.

ICE and DHS has promised to wait several months before taking away TPS status if the agency won in court. As a result, the ACLU told NPR that it expects the protections to start ending no sooner than March, meaning that Joe Biden could reverse the administration’s decision if he wins in November, though the organization plans to fight back in the meantime.

Temporary Protected Status was created to protect people in the U.S. from being sent back to dangerous places – and it’s saved lives.

Credit: Daniel Ortega / Getty Images

The TPS program was first introduced in 1990, and it has protected immigrants from more than 20 countries at various points since then. More than 300,000 people from 10 different nations currently use the program, some of whom have lived and worked in the United States for decades.

Trump has sharply criticized the program, sometimes along racial lines, and in one infamous and widely criticized incident two years ago, the president reportedly referred to the program’s beneficiaries as “people from shithole countries.”

TPS provides protection for short periods of up to 18 months, but the federal government has continuously extended it for the countries mentioned in the lawsuit “based on repeated findings that it remains unsafe to return.” 

As a result, it said, most TPS holders have been living in the U.S. for more than a decade, contributing to their communities and raising their families. Many of the more than 200,000 U.S.-citizen children of TPS holders have never been to the country their parents are from and would have to choose between their families and their homes.

The ruling will have a major impact on migrant families and communities across the U.S.

Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Immigration advocacy groups are slamming the court’s ruling, noting it will impact hundreds of thousands of TPS holders as well as their families and communities. In a statement, Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, said the decision will “plunge their lives into further turmoil at a time when we all need greater certainty.” 

As the global pandemic stretches on, immigrants with protected status make up a large portion of the country’s front-line workers. More than 130,000 TPS recipients are essential workers, according to the Center for American Progress. 

“TPS recipients have deep economic and social roots in communities across the nation,” said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum. “And, as the U.S. responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, TPS recipients are standing shoulder to shoulder with Americans and doing essential work.”

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