Miguel Gutierrez, a member of the Immigrant Youth Justice League participated in the civil disobedience action that took place in Chicago the morning of April 27th, at the Immigration Detention Center in Broadview, IL. He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, along with 24 other people, including 2 other members of IYJL.
When I was about 8 years old, I found an ID on my parents kitchen table. The man pictured in the ID was my father, but the stated name was not his. I remember being confused, a bit scared. Why was my fathers’ name not on his ID? I knew that my parents were Mexican, but so was I, right? My name was on my ID. My parents migrated to the United States in the 1970s, and did so with the intentions that countless of immigrants have: the search for a better life. I remember my dad telling me stories of him walking through the beaches of Tijuana late at night– towards the United States–evading INS. I remember him telling me how he hid behind bushes. He was 16 and scared. 720 miles west of Tijuana, in Chihuahua, my mother was crossing into Texas. She was 14.
During dinner discussions of raids, checkpoints and micas chueqas, I eventually learned the truth behind the ID. The man pictured was indeed my father, but the name was his fathers’. My grandfather had worked for the United States during the Bracero program, one that sought Mexican labor during a time when the U.S. lacked it. My grandmother would later recount how as a little boy, my father would cry when his father would depart for the United States. From that point on, my father would wait anxiously on the steps of their modest home, in hopes of seeing his father approaching in the distance. Needless to say, most days were spent waiting in vain, as my grandfather would leave for months at a time–working the pisca in the U.S. southwest.
When my father embarked on his trip to Chicago, he used his fathers’ Bracero social security number to work—I had stumbled upon his mica chueqa. Unlike his father before him, my father didn’t leave for a few months at a time. Unbeknownst to my father, he was in the U.S to stay and would eventually become a citizen. It was in this context, and with these conversations, that I learned that my parents were at one point, undocumented immigrants, and that I had inherited a privilege from their journey. At the University, I’ve met peers who are undocumented and who can’t do many of the things that I, as a citizen, take for granted. They cannot file for financial aid, travel nor obtain a driver’s license. Some have yet to meet their grandparents, as some departed for the U.S. at an early age.
I’ve realized that citizenship gives me a voice that I can use to decry injustice and to stand along side with undocumented immigrants. Acknowledging this privilege, I have embarked on a journey. A journey that involves sharing my privilege as leverage for those who don’t possess the same privileges as I.
As you are reading this, I and other U.S. Citizens will risk being arrested outside of the Broadview Detention Center. We will sit in the street and block a bus that will be carrying fathers, sons, mothers and daughters to an airport, with the intent of sending them to another country, because our society regards them as “illegal”. In solidarity with undocumented immigrants, we utilize our privilege to risk arrest and other legal ramifications, in a call for social justice. Given my background, how I’ve inherited my privilege and what immigrants endure, as a U.S. citizen, it is the least I can do.