Alaa: Wake Up

It took me a long time to wake up. I’m undocumented, born in Kuwait, of Palestinian origins, my parents brought us here on a visa to escape poverty. When our visa expired so did our opportunities and rights as people, as humans. But I spent years in denial, keeping my head down whenever I was told I don’t belong here, that my parents are criminals, lawbreakers, taking advantage of the system. I was ashamed.

I lived with a constant cloud of fear hung over my head. It took me a long time to wake up.

And I didn’t wake when I realized that years of hard work will be going to waste, like the times when I would stay up till past midnight as a child waiting for my dad to come home exhausted from a 12 hour shift to help me with my homework or when I was offered then denied a job because of my status for the first time, or the second time, or the third time. It didn’t hit because its easier to live in denial, easier to not get up in the morning, to stay under the covers hiding my tears in shame from the world, easier to pretend everything is ok, that someone else will fix it for me.

No, I had to go all the way to Phoenix where a group of undocumented youth slept outside in protest near a senator’s office, on a street corner, in the open where anyone could’ve hurt them.

I couldn’t understand it. It was mindblowing. How could they put themselves at risk for detention and deportation like that? How could they risk being separated from their families, friends, and country? And how can I expect others to sacrifice for me while I sit and do nothing? That’s when I woke up, and realized that I am a human. I had to confront myself and my fears before I knew what I had to do.

I will no longer live like this. I will not allow anyone to be ashamed. There is no shame in tears no shame in dignity no shame in pride. I with my head raised high can finally look at my parents in the eyes and tell them I don’t blame you. I don’t blame you.

I stand today putting my whole life on display to tell you enough waiting, hesitating and procrastinating. We all need to wake up now. We are a country of proud immigrants, and we will not bow down to bigotry and hate. We are above it. I’m not scared; I’m not sorry, not ashamed. A number will not define me because I have a name. My name is Alaa and I am undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic.

Alaa is a member of the Immigrant Youth Justice League, and one of the youth who came out during Chicago’s Coming Out of the Shadows Rally, on March 10th, 2011.

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