My name is Stephanie. I come from a line of hardworking people.
As a result of the poverty my parents experienced in the Philippines, our family moved to the Marshall Islands in waves in order to be closer to the chance of coming to America. One year after naturalizing as Marshallese citizens, 9/11 forced my family to leave the country because they stopped shipping food and water.
Since then, we have been living in this country under expired visitor’s visas. I have lived half of my life dealing with the stresses and anxieties I share with my family knowing that everything we have worked hard for in this country can be easily taken away.
My status is a result of what America has done to the countries I have called home. My family has been displaced here based on the exploitation of our resources and people. I have experienced the harsh reality of a country that refuses to treat me as human no matter how much I give it the love that I can’t even give myself.
How can my mom or dad remember to spend time to show they love me when they have forgotten to love themselves in a system that treats them as second class citizens, when they manage 2-3 jobs with few to no benefits and racist and abusive bosses, when they dedicate their entire lives to working because that is the only way they know how to love in this country?
What I want is freedom. Freedom from a system that ranks us in order and does not see us for our human qualities and complexities. That wants to categorize us as good versus bad immigrants, Dreamer versus undocumented workers and parents, rather than humans fighting for the right to live with all the citizens of this country that are, themselves, descendants of unwelcomed immigrants.
I come from a family that heals this country. My family cares for your elderly, your young, your sick. We are in the restaurants and kitchens that provide you with sustenance to live. We fight for liberation for all people, even those who deny us our own freedom.
I am here fighting for my family’s right and all our families across racial lines to be included in immigration reform. I am here because I refuse to let the current immigration hierarchy divide us!
Walang papeles, walang takot! (No papers, no fear in Tagalog). My name is Stephanie. We stand undocumented, unafraid and undivided.
Stephanie Camba is an organizer with the Immigrant Youth Justice League, and a spoken word artist with Elephant Rebellion. She uses her art and actions to promote policy and change for the people. She read this coming out story at the fourth annual National Coming Out of the Shadows rally on March 10th, 2013 in Chicago.