Today, my dad and I went to the White House. We didn’t go for a tour. We went to say “hi” to a group, Dreamers’ Moms USA, and hear their stories. The Dreamers’ Moms USA were there to ask President Obama to provide administrative relief for 11 million aspiring Americans (in the form of an expanded Deferred Action). The mothers began fasting at 11:00am on Monday, Nov. 3rd and will fast until Obama fulfills his promise. These eleven women (and three male supporters) will reunite every day from 10:00am-7:00pm for as many days as it takes. Hopefully there group will grow as more people hear about them and take a stand for justice.
When my father and I arrived, the group created a circle so that we could all go around and share our stories. Each story touched my heart, but I’ll only elaborate on a few:
Rosario came to this country 12 years ago. She had a one year old baby, but left him behind. She know has two other children, both born in the States. Her 13 year old son doesn’t understand why he can’t come be with him. “Mom, when am I going to get to really know you?”, he asks. Can you imagine leaving a one-year old behind for fear of him getting hurt, or worse yet, killed, but still not being reunited? The daily pain in Rosario’s heart, apart from the separation, is fear. Her son lives in El Salvador, which has one of the highest kidnapping rates. If coyotes learn that your family lives in the States, they call you and say you have to pay thousands of dollars to assure your child won’t be killed. How can you protect your child with such distance?
Rosario struggles with how to explain the situation to her 6 year old too. He wants to go to El Salvador. “Why can’t we go there, Mom?”, he asks. In essence the answer is, “because we don’t have one piece of paper saying we’re allowed to live here.” What child can understand this when he was born here, only knows this country and watches his parents go to work, just like everyone else’s parents. How could it make sense if his parents work in this country, pay taxes in this country, contribute to our economy and work hard to give their children what all parents want: the best possible options for their child.
Patricia is another mother, here without papers. She has four children; the first three without papers. Two years ago her eldest son was deported. Patricia’s son told his younger sisters he was thinking about committing suicide. He doesn’t know anyone in the new country he’s living in. He didn’t want to live in Mexico, away from the rest of his family. He’s a stranger to the country since his parents brought him here as an infant, yet is forced to give up the world he knows and the family he’s had because of one piece of paper. Patricia’s son now has a child of his own. Patricia hasn’t met her first grandchild and doesn’t know when she’ll see her son again. She prays whole-heartedly that her son keep his strength and faith that they will be reunited but lives in fear every day of him deciding to give up. We all know there is nothing like the comfort of your mother’s arms when you are hurt, no matter your age. Can you imagine if the reason keeping you apart is a technicality of your citizenship and nothing else?
On top of Patricia’s heart ache, her mother isn’t doing well. Patricia has been in this country for 24 years, so she’s gone TWENTY-FOUR years without seeing her mother. She’s sacrificed that separation because she believes that her children can have a better life here and won’t have to live in fear of the violence that dominates her homeland. When she learned of her son, she was ready to give up and go back to where she grew up. Fortunately, her mother told her she couldn’t after all that’s she’s done to live here. How can you make sense of living in such pain? The reason must be because the alternative isn’t even worth considering. It’s not a life any human being would choose to submit their children to.
Other mothers shared the constant fear of being deported. One mom lives in Connecticut. She’s driven for six years without a driver’s license because she doesn’t have her papers. Every single day exists the fear of getting pulled over. If she were to get pulled over, she and her husband could be deported even though their children were born here. As the laws are now, we would separate these parents and children even though they’ve worked in this country and raised their children here.
Another mother explained this situation as living in a golden cage. “We pay a lot for this cage and there’s still no guarantees of safety in it. I’ve lived in the shadows for so long even though I’m a human being just like everyone else.”
Yet another, shared that she’s been part of a group in California for 15 years called, Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA) (Mothers United and Active). Her rights were abused as an employee because she didn’t have papers. She was constantly asked to put in more hours without receiving more pay. Some employers abuse the undocumented immigrants because they can.
I cried as these women shared their stories. Many of them said the same thing: “We are human beings. We’ve done nothing to hurt anyone. We want the same as everyone else, which is to have a decent life and give our children the best we can. We are all human beings asking for nothing more than justice.”
As it neared my turn to talk, I thought, “What am I going to say? Each one of these women was sharing such a heart-wrenching story. I did nothing to be born in this country, just as they did nothing to be born in theirs. The great difference between us is that I live in a country where diversity is (supposedly) embraced and where people come to live out their dreams. What rights should I have over them if we are all just fellow beings?!? I can’t stand exclusivity!”
I went after Rosario. “My name is Angela Barbieri. I am here because my dad invited me to come with him. The truth is that I didn’t know about your organization until yesterday. I am a mother of two young children and my heart aches after hearing your stories. I want to get involved, do whatever I can to help. I will share your stories so that others so they can learn and support your cause. I admire all of you for your incredible strength. I will pray for you and your families. I will also pray that Obama agrees to grant relief to the millions of people you’re representing. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. I am hurting with you.”
So, here I am. Sharing what I learned today. We become better people when we know more. We become better when we advocate for equality and justice. We each have our struggles, but if you’re a citizen you can’t really understand the sacrifice, strength and pain the undocumented have lived. I ask you to take time to learn more about Dreamers’ Moms USA. I ask you to imagine the few stories I shared above and sit with the heartache they cause. I ask you to pray for these women over the next days/weeks of fasting as they don’t ask for anything more than a piece of paper.
I walked away from Dreamers’ Moms USA thinking about the human heart. Our hearts are not only physically strong. Our human hearts can handle such strong emotions, such as heartache, fear, sadness and anger. Our human hearts can do all of this because they are filled with two things: LOVE and HOPE.
Help keep the love and hope alive for these women and their families.