by Kathrin Ivanovic
Tuesday afternoon, more than a hundred allies joined seven undocumented students in Hurt Park on Georgia State University’s campus as they demanded GSU to not comply with the bans on access to higher education. They delivered a letter to the office of the GSU president, asking him not to comply with a Georgia Board of Regents’ restriction barring undocumented students from attending the state’s top five universities. The seven undocumented youth and growing group of allies marched through campus carrying signs and chanting slogans such as ‘Undocumented! Unafraid!” which has become a rallying cry for the movement.
The students and protesters took over and shutdown Courtland Street that runs through the GSU campus. All seven undocumented students were arrested yesterday afternoon after shutting down a four-lane overpass over Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta mere blocks from the state’s Capitol Building. They are currently being held at Atlanta City Jail, where they could face deportation proceedings because of their immigration status.
For all seven—Georgina Perez, Viridiana Martinez, Jose Rico Benavides, Dayanna Rebolledo, Andrea Rosales, David Ramirez, and Maria Marroquin—the United States has been their home for most of their lives. Their parents brought them to the United States as young children or infants, to offer them a better life. Yet, all they have received have been empty promises. While changes in the law in 1996 made them ineligible to apply for citizenship, legislation that would have reopened a pathway to legalization was derailed in Congress last session.
After nearly half a decade of patiently waiting for members of Congress to do the right thing—provide a just path to legalization—undocumented students across the country, compelled by their convictions, are claiming their voice and coming out of the shadows to declare their status. They are unafraid and unapologetic.
“We feel the time for us to stand has come. I am not only doing this for my friends who are in the same situation, but for my mom who did everything she could to give me a better life,” says Georgina Perez, 21, one of the undocumented youth, brought here from Mexico at the age of 3. Georgina went on to say, “I feel scared not knowing what might happen to me today, but I also know that if I do not take action that my future will remain uncertain for much longer.”
“Young people have always been at the forefront of the civil rights movement,” stated David Ramirez, an undocumented youth from Chicago, Illinois, “If you claim to stand with us, fight with us. Help us defend our dignity and worth as members of American society. I’ve decided whose side I am on and I have chosen to act. I ask you now to do the same.”
“I am the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants, and this is my home,” Virdiana Martinez told a crowd of a hundred students and supporters. “I am undocumented and I am unafraid!” The North Carolina student had gone on a 13-day hunger strike in downtown Raleigh last year in a attempt to get Senator Kay Hagan to vote for the DREAM Act.
Each of the students asked other undocumented youth to come out. “We cannot be afraid,” said Andrea Rosales. “If you are undocumented, come out and say you are undocumented.”
Maria Marroquin, brought to the United States when she was thirteen, was similarly direct: “I want other undocumented youths to stand up and defend your right to live in this country.”
Photos by Kung Li
To learn more about Kathrin, check out The Diversity Projekt.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.