Undocumented youth host their own coming out day

Transcript after the jump

On Friday, the Immigrant Youth Justice League hosted their own coming out day for undocumented immigrant youth. This week, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance and other groups are calling for a National Coming Out of the Shadows week. Colorlines will be posting stories from undocumented youth throughout the week.

As a queer Latina and the child of immigrants, I get chills each time I’ve seen over these past few years these brave young people stand up and put their own lives on the line for the sake of all immigrants in the US.

Coming out is a concept initially used by the LGBT movement–and it may be our most powerful to date. Making ourselves visible, making ourselves known, is an incredible tool for change. Just as these young people risk it all by being public about their immigration status, queer folks risked their safety, livelihood and family by coming out as queer.

Red and black poster for National Coming Out Day

Things have changed significantly for those of us in the LGBTQ movement (though we still have a long way to go) and I can only hope that things will change for undocumented immigrants here as well.

It’s worth noting that many of these youth have to come out twice–as queer and undocumented. These identities do not preclude one another.

These activists inspire me with their bravery, their unflinching commitment to risk their lives for change and for a better future for all immigrants. The risk they take by coming out is no joke–thousands of immigrants are detained and deported each year for being undocumented, and that number has risen consistently each year.

I’m not undocumented, but I stand in solidarity with these folks as the child of immigrants. My parents, if it weren’t for favorable policy toward Cubans coming to the US, could have been undocumented as well.

My name is Cindy, I’m 21 years old, I’m undocumented, I’m unafraid and I’m unapologetic.

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On March 10th, 2011, we are going to have undocumented youth proclaim their undocumented status. They will tell everyone that they should not be sorry for being in the United States. That they should not apologize for getting an education and that they should not be sorry for their parents trying to make a living in the United States.

By coming out we share our stories we put a face to this issue. We are human.

We are not here asking for acceptance. We are asking for change.

Coming out means teling a friend, a loved one, a classmate, a teacher. Something that otherwise we would have kept private.

It is using our lives and stories as a political tool for change.

I actually decided to come out last year after I went to March 10th. March 10th was my first introduction to the Immigrant Youth Justice League. Seeing all of these people saying I’m undocumented by I’m not afraid anymore,  changed everything for me.

My undocumented status has affected a lot but it’s also become a part of who I am now. Because of being undocumented, I’ve learned to look for alternatives, I’ve learned to work hard. Because I know that I need to do ten times better than anyone else.

You know, just sharing my story, allowing me to let other young people  know even though you are undocumented you can get an education, you can do things, you can be a person.

You no longer have to feel ashamed because there are many of us everywhere.

These students, these young people will come out and say I’m undocumented, I’m unafraid, I’m unapologetic and I deserve to be here.

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