Wheaton, IL- On Friday March 16, 2012 suburban undocumented youth and parents will publicly share their stories at the first Coming Out of the Shadows rally in DuPage County . They will proclaim that they are not afraid and not ashamed of their immigration status, and affirm their right to live a life without fear. The rally is part of a national effort led by undocumented youth to "come out of the shadows" for the third consecutive year. Through their actions these youth will continue to defy fear in the face of criminalization, and bring attention to the importance and urgency of laws and policies that respect the rights and contributions of immigrants. They specifically advocate for the passage of the Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would provide a conditional path to citizenship for undocumented students, and against the enforcement of the Secure Communities Program.
The location of this rally in DuPage County is particularly relevant. In February the federal government announced that it would be putting more resources into Secure Communities, a finger-print and information sharing program used to identify undocumented immigrants processed through local jails. In Du Page County, Department of Homeland Statistics, 44% of those deported through secure communities had not been convicted of a crime.
"Because of Secure Communities, my family and I have to worry everyday about whether we will be picked up and deported," said Fanny Lopez-Martinez, who is an undocumented student from Dupage County married to a war veteran. "My husband has to worry about his wife not being home when he gets back. Since I started attending college my fears increased because I drive to and from school five days a week," she added. Fanny was arrested last August at a civil disobedience against the program at a Chicago hearing.
Many northwest suburbs, particularly DuPage county, aggressively implement local collaboration programs like Secure Communities, creating a climate of fear amongst immigrant and undocumented communities. With little access to public transportation and resources, suburban undocumented youth live in fear of arrest and deportation for simply driving to school everyday.
"For me, coming out is a way for us to empower undocumented youth who live in the shadows and in fear," said Emmanuel Cordova, an undocumented student from DuPage County. "We we will no longer stand by while our broken immigration system continues to break apart families, instill fear in the immigrant community, and cause emotional devastation. Rather, we will continue fighting for our rights as human beings," he concluded.
The event culminates a week of actions part of National Coming Out of the Shadows week, which started on March 10th with a rally at Chicago's Daley Plaza. It is organized by the Latin@ Youth Action League (L@YAL) and Nuestra Voz, two immigrant rights organizations working in the Northwest suburbs, in collaboration with the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL).
Latin@ Youth Action League (L@YAL) seeks to empower youth to engage in critical thinking, community building, and collaboration by raising awareness and promoting activism in DuPage County. Nuestra Voz is a non-profit youth-driven organization that promotes education among Latinos in the Western Suburbs of Melrose Park, Northlake, and Stone Park, among many others.