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Today, Karla came out about her immigration status at her school, the Phoenix Academy, in Chapel Hill, NC. She did it in front of her teachers and school administrators, her classmates and peers. In her orange undocumented shirt “my name is Karla,” she said, “and I am Undocumented and I am unafraid.”


Karla Perez is a junior at the Phoenix Academy. She is an active member of the Immigrant Youth Forum.

The following was originally written as a scholarship essay by an undocumented high school student in Granville County, North Carolina. Feel like taking a stand? Come to our Youth Empowerment Summit on November, 6th.

One of the happiest memories from my childhood was playing in the rain with my cousins and friends with no shoes on, wearing an oversized t-shirt in Honduras. As a young child, my parents were not present in my life. Instead, they cared for me from afar, in a long distance relationship. All I knew was that they were somewhere else beyond my reach, or at least it sounded too far away when I would talk to my mom over the phone. I knew that we were apart so that they could properly provide for me; however, now that I am living with my mom I know I would have been happier to see and hug her every day.

When the rain stopped, so did the game. I remember clearly that I had to say good-bye to my friends that day, friends who I loved and who shared my passion for mathematics. We were always competing in class, trying to see who could get that perfect score on the test. But now I was to leave on a journey with an unfamiliar man who was called a “coyote”. At such a young age, I could not fully grasp what this adventure was going to bring. All I understood was that I was going to see my mother again, and that was all I needed to know. I knew I could take on any math problem or any other struggle that life might possibly bring as long as I could embrace her once again.

As time passed, the journey became exhausting, even for the curious and courageous eight-year-old boy that I was. The coyote would say, “This time we’re going to make it, just be quiet and pray we don’t get caught.” It was not until the third time behind bars that the fear really set in. I was in a cell surrounded by strangers; my heart was racing and I felt as if my brain was going to explode. I was terrified. I wanted my mother more than anything, but this time, even more than my mom, I wanted freedom. Why was I being detained? I was just an innocent child who wanted to be reunited with my parents. Why were these people in green uniforms blocking the way for this wide-eyed little boy with a salty wet face who could barely eat the cold tortillas provided in the cell? I wanted to bury myself; I wanted to wake up in a different place, in a different life. On the fifth try, I finally made it through Guatemala and Mexico, and arrived at the border that brought so much happiness, yet so much fear. To me, it brought my beloved mother. It brought me dreams of a life and a future.

When I woke up from the terrible nightmare that was my journey to the United States, I soon realized that the challenges were not over. Although we are all created in the image of God, I was the alien sitting in Mrs. Jeanne’s fourth grade class. My favorite part of the day was the math lesson; it was the time of the day where I spoke the same language as everybody else. Sometimes I even spoke it a little bit better than the rest of my classmates. Yet, the other students spoke in such a different tongue. Why could I not understand them? I felt I had been freed from the walls and the bars just to be isolated in another world. I vowed this would never happen to me again. From that point on, school became my source of life, and education my freedom. In some of my classes I excelled and was labeled as “gifted” and in those subjects that proved to be more challenging, like English, I worked extra hard to succeed.

Now as a senior, I no longer feel like an alien, though politicians and many people still refer to me as one. The storm is not over yet, but I can already see the sun rising behind the dark clouds and it feels warm and soothing. Writing this essay in English, a language that at one point was foreign to me, gives me the feeling of success. It proves that I am capable of doing and overcoming anything; all that is necessary is knowledge and perseverance. Today, it is still fun to compete in class to get the best grades. It’s also fun to play in the rain, even though I am a bit older. Struggling to break a language barrier, and of course that other barrier – the border – has given me the determination to continue on with a higher education. I must pursue my dream of becoming a doctor so that I can be someone and live a prosperous life, an opportunity I never would have had in my native country.

Photo courtesy of Dayanna R.

Undocumented youth are taking a stand against HB87, an Arizona-style bill in Georgia. Georgia has also moved to ban undocumented youth from attending its top-tier public universities. CBS Atlanta has the story here.

From the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance:

Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance

Contact: Georgina Perez or Cell: 678-389-1226

Keish Kim or Cell: 678.525.1912

Undocumented High School Students Walk Out In Response to HB 87 and Ban on Higher Education Youth Demand Equality Education on 57th Anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education

Mableton, Georgia— May 17th, on the anniversary of landmark civil rights case Brown vs. Board of Education, hundreds of students from Pebblebrook high school will walk out of their classrooms demanding equal access to higher education. The, mostly undocumented, students hope their walkout will send a clear signal to Gov. Deal, the Board of Regents and others who wish to prevent them from attaining a higher education; “as undocumented youth we can no longer be afraid of those who stand against us, instead we need show them we will fight back. We need to take a stand because if we do not do it no one else will” says Dulce Guerrero, an undocumented 12th grader at Pebblebrook high school.

WHAT: Undocumented youth walk-out of class and rally outside school at flag poll

WHO: Undocumented Youth and allies in grades 9 to 12 from Pebblebrook high-school
Reverend Timothy McDonald, senior pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church

WHEN: Tuesday, May 17th at 2:00pm at the Flag Poll

WHERE: FLAG POLL - Pebblebrook high school, 991 Old Alabama Road, Mableton, Georgia 30126

In October of 2010 the Georgia Board of Regents made a ruling which bars all undocumented youth from its top 5 universities. The ban, unlike other states, does not even allow for undocumented youth to attend at out-of-state tuition rates. Rev. Timothy McDonald, senior pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church states; “As we remember the historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision, we affirm that immigration is the civil rights issue for the 21st century. We will not re-segregate our colleges and university. America must continue its forward progress towards affirming the rights of all people.”

According to a July 2010 Migrant Policy Institute report, Dulce is just one of the estimated 74,000 undocumented youth who are currently living in Georgia. She joins the over 2.1 million who reside in the United States. Dulce went on to say; “A ban on college is unacceptable; if our students have the brains then nothing should prevent them from attending college. I am walking out today because I want to go to college; if my teachers, my principle and my community support the values of Brown vs. Board of Education then I hope they will support us, the students who are affected by these laws.”

The students leading this action promise that it is only the first of its kind, like the action of April 5th in which 7 undocumented youth were arrested; organizers plan to continue with the direct civil disobedience actions until immigrant communities in Georgia can once again live without constant fear.

Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance (GUYA) is an Undocumented Youth-led organization which seeks dignity and justice for its immigrant youth community in the state of Georgia. GUYA believes all persons should have equal access to education and a life free from persecution regardless of their legal status.

Students have chained themselves to the chairs of a board meeting of the Tuscon Unified School District in defense of high school Ethnic Studies program, derailing the introduction of a measure that would eliminate it.

With graduation for high school students coming up in a matter of weeks and college graduations just around the corner, we want to know your thoughts.

What does graduating mean to you? What are you going to do when you graduate? What are you going to do over the summer? Whether or not you are undocumented youth or a concerned citizen, we want to know what’s on your mind. You don’t have to give us your full name if you don’t want people to know.

Send us an essay-as long or as short as you like-and we’ll feature it here on our blog. If you send us a picture, we’ll put that up, too.

Watch as Karina, a student at Southern High School in Durham, raises tough questions about Secure Communities with David Price:

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  • @joshabla xoxoxo!#FWYH 16 hours ago

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