My Experience Joining Aliento!
Coming out as Undocumented Student under Trump’s Mandate
I am a current student at Arizona State University who is pursuing a degree in Political Science and Certificate in Education. I am the the oldest in my family, and with that I feel responsibility to lead the path for my younger siblings to be able to pursue their dreams, despite the many obstacles we face as an undocumented family living in the United States.
When you are undocumented in the United States, there is always a sense of secrecy. Don’t tell anyone. Be a “good” immigrant. I know that because my parents repeatedly told that to me and my younger siblings. In fact, during conversations at the family dinner table, immigration has always been a theme as we discuss the political issues that affect us and what we can do about income inequities, racial and gender discrimination, and our overall undocumented immigration status in this country.
Attending Aliento’s Retreat!
When I first heard about Aliento’s retreat through Reyna, I was interested but I didn’t know how much I needed a space like that until I was there. Maybe it is because racism and oppression thrives on the lack of connection among groups of people that share similar lived experiences. Although I only knew a few people at the retreat, there was no awkwardness, nor there was a fear that I didn’t belong in the space. It was a very welcoming.
I gave no choice to my younger sister on whether she was going to the retreat because after listening to the hateful rhetoric that Donald Trump had been spewing, I thought it was important to be in a space where my sister and I could feel that we were not alone. I wanted her to feel empowered and not overwhelmed and consumed by feeling helpless in the current state of politics. I was concerned about her.
While I was there, I didn’t realize how much I needed that sense of empowerment as well. There was love and a sense of support among all of us. The kind of belonging that is only possible when people are all there to offer their guidance, and their full support for whatever fight might be encountered in the future. It was impressive and heartening to see and hear from older folks who had been in the fight longer than I have or younger people and listening to their struggles and their stories.
There were also younger people than me who share their knowledge, pain and their very own strength. I wasn’t alone, my sister wasn’t alone!
But in just that brief day, there was a sense of urgency to become involved and be active! I realized that this is much greater than me. This was a collective fight against injustices! And this fight requires all of us!
My Opportunity to Share my Truth
A month after the retreat, I had the opportunity to share my story in front of one hundred high school students who want to become journalists. We did a mock press conference about immigration and the impact it has on people like me. I also had the chance to answer questions from the students about my experiences.
I was able to share my story in front of all those young students! This was a such a healing and empowering experience. I was able to speak my truth and share that it was not only about me, but how my parents are the real reason why I’m here and speak about their many sacrifices they’ve made, from crossing the border, to supporting me, and loving me.
I was overwhelmed to notice how the future will rely in the hearts of those students who will be the next generation that leads our country in the government, education, and other sectors of society.
This experience allowed me to apply the skills I learned at the retreat and also see how I was not alone. Reyna and Ezequiel, who also have DACA were with me the entire time. Reyna was a great mentor throughout the entire process, making sure that both Ezequiel and I were comfortable and knew what we were all doing the entire time.
Yet, the best thing that happened during the mock conference was seeing Reyna stand up to the new Maricopa Sheriff, Paul Penzone and calling him out on dishonesty. It was that moment, that once again, made me feel that we weren’t alone as long as we had people like Reyna who relentlessly fight for our community.
What Can We Do
Now more than ever, it’s necessary that we as a collective realize that we have more power than we think we do. Sometimes we need to witness others who are going through similar situations and are fighting for what’s right, this allows us to wake up and/or find the strength necessary to also stand up.
We can only accomplished this when spaces (such as the retreat) are provided for people who are directly impacted by this policies to come together in a safe space and act as one.
Link to a news story featuring Vasthy on the mock-press conference: