On May 1, 2006, as many as 800,000 immigrants flooded into the streets of Dallas and Chicago to demonstrate that their presence in the United States is neither insignificant nor to be taken lightly. Imagine the courage it took for these individuals to risk coming out of the shadows of our nation’s underground and to openly declare their desire to be woven into the tapestry of the country with other immigrant citizens.
“The new immigrants seek precisely what has made our country great,” said Jesse Jackson Sr. the following day. “They thirst for democracy and freedom, a job and security for their families, for citizenship rights, and to leave repression and poverty behind.” Many of the participants saw participation in the march as an opportunity to go public with their deep desire to participate in the American dream.
In the red-hot debate over immigration reform, what often has been lost is the realization that we are talking about real human beings, and not commodities or statistics. The men, women, and children we so casually refer to as “undocumented immigrants” at best, and “illegal aliens” at worse, are in fact individuals created in the image of God.
We would like to introduce you to Patricia and her family. (Her name is disguised for her protection.) Patricia’s own words about what it is like living in the United States without legal status might help us all to see the immigration issue in a more human light.
—Juan Hernandez and Noel Castellanos