Despite my career-long advocacy for immigrant rights and for the overhaul of our immigration laws, I never quite understood the idea of "coming out" as an undocumented immigrant - until I heard the powerful story of Angy Paola Rivera - a fierce immigrant advocate from Colombia.
I was attending the 21st Annual Washington DC Immigrant Achievement Awards - where Angy was one of the 3 awardees. The event is sponsored by the American Immigration Council - a nonprofit immigration think tank based in DC. As usualy, it was a beautiful awards ceremony. Angy Rivera was the 3rd in line to receive her award. As she started her acceptance speech, she captivated the audience - personally I was blown away by the powerful delivery of her story as well as her grace.
Angy talked about "coming out" as undocumented despite her mother's warning to stay low. She methodically took us the audience through her journey as a teenager, when she decided to own her immigration status as opposed to being ashamed of it. She consequently empowered other youth to also take command of their own destinies and talk about their fantastic immigrant lives. Her acceptance speech was one of the most powerful on this subject I had ever heard. I was at once humbled and at awe of her spiritual strength.
Angy taught me that the work immigration attorneys do as advocates is just half the equation. The other very important half is the advocacy work done by the immigrants themselves through "coming out" and sharing their powerful stories. They change the hearts of American people and immigration attorneys help change the minds of our politicians and show how immigration reform should be done so it's most comprehensive.
As you know, the Supreme Court will decide the fate of President Obama's executive actions re DAPA & DACA by June of this year. By all accounts, there is now a critical mass of people all over this country; families young and old as well as children demanding justice. Stories like Angy's will no doubt be a rallying cry for a comprehensive reform of our immigration laws. The demand for a humane treatment of our immigrants who are truly the lifeline of our great country will only get louder as a new President and a new Congress get to work in January 2017.
To read Angy's story - click on: http://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/events/21st-annual-washington-dc-immigrant-achievement-awards
If you have a story to tell - call me at 323-857-0034.