At the age of six I could not fully comprehend what it would mean for me to never be able to see my father again. As my aunt had put it “God had called for him” and at that time I would have never imagined how difficult it would be to not have him around. I remember staying up late at night sobbing, with a knot in my throat, trying really hard to not wake my little brother of four years old, thinking and asking God “Why? Why did this happen?” This horrible tragedy was out of our control, it was something we could not change.
Two years later in a land I did not recognize, with a language I did not know, I found myself asking God many questions, and it seemed for a really long time that I did not receive any answers. My questions varied from “Why were we forced to be here? Why is it that my dreams, and the dreams of my family are not given a chance?” Why God? Why?” For a really long time I questioned my decision to remain in school, because despite having an outstanding academic record I could not afford an education. But nevertheless, I fought on because I knew the sacrifice my mother made everyday, to give me and my two little brothers an opportunity we would otherwise never had. As I was finally nearing my graduation from community college, after working and saving for it, my mother was laid off from a company which she had devoted 13 years of her life to. This occurred not because she was underperforming, but rather was due to the implementation of E-verify, and her story, just like mine is not unique. There were many people who lost, and are losing their job because of E-verify, driving them into the abusive and exploitive business that has become out of temporary staffing agencies.
I can spend my whole day searching, wondering, demanding an answer from God, as to why this is happening, but unlike the tragedy of my fathers death, the issue at hand, the exploitation and overarching fear in our communities can be something that WE can change. Today, as people who believe in the dignity of every human person, we call on to those that have the ability to change the unjust laws that have criminalized our families and friends. President Obama has the authority to grant our families immediate relief from deportation, with a chance to live a dignified life in the “land of the free”. And today we prove that this continues to be “the home of the brave”, because whether we are living life as an undocumented person or not, we are here to shout and demand Not One More.
Not one More because the silent tears of our mothers, the muted shrieks of agony of separated family members are buried in the cities across America where the cries are all too loud for the sons and daughters who go to sleep each night without the embrace of their mother or father. Not One More because our mothers and fathers have carried the weight of our world on their shoulders, and in these times, they desperately need some sort of relief in order to persevere, to dream, and to rejoice. That is why I am here, because I have my family, friends, and community in my heart, and this, my brothers and sisters, is a tragedy we can stop and correct.
Ana Bonilla-Martinez is a youth leader and Board member of Wind of the Spirit in NJ. She graduated with her Associate’s degree in Chemistry and is now applying to finish her Bachelor’s degree. Ana was brought to the US when she was 9 and now has DACA. She was instrumental in the fight for in-state tuition for undocumented youth in NJ in 2013 and is a fierce advocate for the rights immigrant youth, her community, and human rights more broadly.