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‘Undocumented and unafraid’

The Immigrant Youth Justice League will hold its second Coming Out Day, and for the first time undocumented high school students will join college students in telling their stories publicly, Thurday, March 10 at 3 p.m. at Daley Plaza, Washington and Clark.

In the year since the first “coming out” action, when eight Chicago area youth spoke out, immigration reform and the DREAM Act have failed in Congress, Arizona has passed a “papers please” law targetting immigrants, and the Obama administration has continued to step up deportations.  Throughout, undocumented youth were in the thick of things, lobbying Congress and sitting in at congressional offices in Washington and around the country.

The biggest impact of their public advocacy may have been on the undocumented community itself, which saw young people who were “willing to take action in the face of fear,” said Tania Unzueta of IYJL.  She was arrested last July in civil disobedience in Washington.

She tells of speaking in classrooms about coming out,.”There are always a couple students who come up afterwards and say ‘thank you, I’m undocumented and I’ve never had a conversation with anyone about it – could we sit and talk?'”

For others, “we hope we’ve highlighted the contractions of immigration policy – that there are a lot of young people, students with good grades, you listen to our stories and we’re like everyone else, we’re looking to make a contribution.

“At the same time the government considers us criminals, some people don’t want us to be here, and we don’t have access to the same resources other people do.”

Regardless of the action or inaction of politicians, undocumented youth are going to claim the right to tell their stories – in the hopes of putting a human face on the immigration crisis, Unzueta said.

In the coming week undocumented youth will be publicly declaring their status in New York, Texas, California, Georgia, and other states, according to IYJL.

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Category: immigrants, youth

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