Americans in every way except for on paper…

By Unai Montes-Irueste

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When I was 6, I was deported alongside my parents.  My parents left Mexico City because they were attacked (shot at) by Mexican government forces trying to bring an end to the student movement.  There was no safe place to “go home” to in Mexico.  Just rejection by the federal government of the US, and the instabilities that came from deportation.

I came to know hunger, uncertainty, and loss.  That event continues to shape my life.

I am the first American citizen in my family; the first to receive a degree from an American college, after graduating from an American high school.  But my American identity—my Americanness—is rooted in the enthusiasm for America’s principles, and belief in the American spirit of humanity, my non-citizen, deported immigrant parents demonstrated during my formative years.  Last year, President Obama said that we need immigration reform because millions are “Americans in every way except for on paper.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Rosa Parks’ rejection of bus segregation, led to the riders’ boycott that launched Martin Luther King Jr.’s career. The Civil Rights Movement is what we now call the sum total of every boycott, court victory, freedom ride, sit in, march, speech, interview, editorial, testimony, and action that led to Congressional legislation to form a more perfect union.

On April 16, 1963, in “Letter from Birmingham Jail” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote:

“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here… Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny… We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.”

Abused and scorned through those directly harmed by the broken system may be, immigrants are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny with America. American immigrants are patriots whose contributions are seen in every aspect of American history and quotidian life, who embrace not only the American dream, but also the burden of rebuilding it whenever, and wherever, it is denied. Whether undocumented or not, every American pledges allegiance to the flag that stands for liberty and justice for all.

Unai Montes-Irueste is a Regional Director for The Dream is Now. To find out more about The Dream is Now Project and how you can get involved, please visit our website, or find us on Facebook or Twitter