By Claire Prudhomme
Four undocumented students from various Catholic universities in the DC area, on Tuesday September 24, sat on a panel at Trinity Washington University to speak in attribution to the movement.
Undocumented and Unafraid is a movement inspired by the stress and loneliness that comes from being undocumented in America. It promotes the expression of those who are undocumented to share their stories. Undocumented and Unafraid is a movement of students who seek to find shared struggles similar to other undocumented immigrants. The phrase “undocumented and unafraid” encourages immigrants to rise from the shadows and step up to speak towards immigration advocacy.
Speakers on the panel included senior Arlin Tellez from Trinity Washington University, senior Daniela Zelaya from Trinity Washington University, third-year senior José Gutiérrez from the Catholic University of America and senior Mizraim Guerrero from Georgetown University.
Those who spoke were advocates for their schools and the community around them. The students on the panel have worked as advocates for immigrants in jobs anywhere from, the President of the Butterfly Network for their school or as a youth delegate for the United Nations.
The students shared their personal stories and their parents’ stories of immigration to the United States. They also shared how their faith has helped them immensely throughout the process. Arlin Tellez shared her stories of being deported and working with those who live in constant fear. She spoke of her success as working as a waitress, to becoming a civil activist in her community.
Zelaya shared her family’s story, how they had to face the decision of leaving their country or stay and face violence in their community of El Salvador. Guerrero spoke of his family’s struggle apart and their choice to immigrate to the US to keep them together.
Gutiérrez, a Catholic University alumni, told his story of his struggle to accept his journey in the United States. He talked about his isolation in high school and the mental health problems he faced as he watched friends do things that he could not do.
Gutiérrez, mentioned how, “[He] think[s] that something that is left out of the immigrant story is mental state.” He talked about how both he and his father suffered from forms of depression and how they both had to overcome it. “I won’t let this beat me, not this sadness, not this obstacle, I won’t let this defeat me.”
The students, when asked to describe immigration in one word, said that they were full of uncertainty, fear, worry, and bittersweet feelings. Migration is depicted as a wonderful process of acquiring citizenship, community and a new home but for these students and for many others like them, the journey is scary and unpredictable. The idea that migration is beautiful cuts so many people from the narrative.
“We cannot be certain that our parents will be here tomorrow, that we will be here tomorrow or especially in a few years,” said Gutiérrez, “My word would be ‘uncertain’ because we don’t know what will happen tomorrow.”
*Disclaimer: panelist speakers sanctioned the publication of their names.