Deferred Action is a Sacrifice to Bear Witness to Real Change

Organizer Cesar Juarez has been advocating for immigration reform for his community for years. Deferred Action was not what he fought for, but he puts the policy in the context of his own life, and the larger call for change.

The day laborer marching down Alum Rock towards San Jose City Hall yelled out to the multitude, “What do we want?” Screaming back with all their might, protestors answered, “Immigration reform!”

A young undocumented woman marches with her father because the broken immigration system affects not only university students like herself and her younger undocumented sister, as well as her undocumented parents, but also her two U.S. born elementary-age and a university freshman brothers.

Both are marching to voice the need for an immigration reform that honors family unity. She knows that she needs to participate in the change she wants to win.

In the streets never once have I heard my community answer the above question with, “A work permit!”

I am what the media and other sources have labeled a DREAMer. I was brought to the United States at the age of seven. I completed second to twelfth grade in public schools, attended Evergreen Valley College, and transferred to San Jose State University where I received a B.A. in Social Science, Single-Subject Prep.

Two weeks ago I finished putting together my Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) packet. Through the process my heavy heart felt contradictory emotions: feelings of joy, accomplishment, excitement, and freedom contrasted with vulnerable feelings of being a sell-out, failing, and accepting to be dehumanized. My mind exploded with memories of my involvement with great fighters in the struggle that made DACA a reality.

For over seven years I have been an organizer of a great majority of the immigration reform actions in San Jose, in different capacities: as a member of a student organization at San Jose State University that advocates for undocumented students, a member of the May 1st Coalition, a community organizer and organizing director of a local non-profit that empowers immigrants, and a labor union organizer. To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., as an organizer my duty was to fight for justice because that is what love looks like in public.

Starting on August 15, undocumented community members throughout the nation between the ages of 15 and 30 that meet certain requirements have been coming out of the shadows and filing their DACA and employment authorization applications. About 300,000 individuals have applied for this benefit.

To be honest, this process has been very difficult. On the level of political empowerment, this is not what I fought for. On a personal level, I could not allow myself to apply before helping others (one of the organizer syndromes). The values that I learned from my mother, the Catholic faith I grew up with, and reading about great leaders and social justice movements are strong. The values of justice, love, sacrifice, and serving the people -- so that we are treated with dignity and equality -- did not allow me to apply for Deferred Action for over three months. This "benefit" confers the “right” to be treated as second-class, to forego other basic human rights such as family unity, voting, access to a safety net, and the freedom to travel. Never once was I in the streets with the people demanding only a work-permit.

At an early age I understood that sacrifice is needed to bear witness to change. From being open in public about my undocumented status and participating in a hunger strike, to frequently protesting outside ICE offices and now applying to Deferred Action, sacrifice brings with it new life.

I apply for DACA feeling reenergized to be part of a historic and heroic struggle to win immigration reform. The necessity to organize has become more urgent. While I have felt this urgency for close to ten years, moments like this of great sacrifice bring a renewed sense of hope. With the hope that millions of people have inside comes the duty to organize. ¡Let’s continue organizing!

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