Undocumented and unafraid

A new wave of young and diverse Immigrant protesters risk serious consequences to call for change. 

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Guardian photo by Brittany M. Powell

rebecca@sfbg.com

Business as usual means buses depart from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in downtown San Francisco every weekday, ferrying deportees from throughout the region to federal detention centers or the airport. Even in San Francisco, a Sanctuary City where local law enforcement agencies have limited cooperation with ICE authorities, life can be filled with uncertainty for those who lack legal citizenship status.

In recent years, many immigrant activists have taken the step of publicly revealing themselves to be "undocumented," to sound a call for immigration reform and to push back against the fearful existence that the looming threat of deportation can create.

But the young people who are profiled here have taken things a step further, going so far as to risk arrest by protesting deportations and pushing for immigration reform, all while identifying themselves loud and clear as undocumented.

In the same vein as protesters who marched for civil rights, gay rights, free speech, or in anti-war movements before them, the undocumented youth are putting themselves on the line. Their mantra, chanted at top volume, is "undocumented and unafraid," highlighting the ever-present possibility that they could face stiff penalties for their actions.

Nationwide, an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants remain in limbo as a push for federal immigration reform, which would create a pathway to citizenship for people in the country illegally, remains stalled in Congress. While community-led campaigns have yielded legislation that creates safeguards against deportation for young people who arrived with their parents as children, bureaucratic nightmares and forced deportations continue unabated.

Nearly everyone we interviewed for this article mentioned their grandparents while sharing their personal stories with the Guardian. While the politics and policy surrounding immigration reform are tremendously complex, the impact the current system has on people's lives often boils down to problems like not being able to take a flight to visit an ailing grandparent because it would be impossible to return.

"It's intense," says Nicole Salgado, an American citizen who lives with her foreign-born husband in Mexico. "Because you know, it's essentially an issue of trespassing, and so it seems to me like it's a really harsh penalty for a civil infraction. No harm was done to a person, and that's the case for the vast majority of people who are in this situation."

ALEX ALDANA

Alex Aldana is nervous.

He's stopped making eye contact, which is strange, because Aldana doesn't normally break eye contact, and isn't the nervous type. Since 2012, he's been arrested seven times.

All seven arrests stemmed from acts of civil disobedience, each carried out to protest the same issue: immigration laws that he views as unjust, because they lead to forced deportation.

Aldana, 26, is an undocumented immigrant. He entered the US legally from Guadalajara, Mexico, in February 2003 on a work visa, but when the time on his visa ran out, he was left undocumented. It coincided with the departure of his father, a man Aldanda says deceived his family.

Like many other undocumented immigrants, he has been trying to give a largely misunderstood population a face. Unlike many others, he's doing so in a way that carries a great deal of risk.

He's part of the growing contingent of undocumented immigrants who are, as they say, "undocumented and unafraid." And when they say it, they shout it.

Aldana participated in a sit-in inside Gov. Jerry Brown's office. He's faced the Ku Klux Klan at pro-immigration reform rallies in San Bernardino. He's been a key link in a human roadblock created to halt a deportation bus in San Francisco. He's been detained by ICE and local police departments. He normally comes across as fearless, but not on this day.

Comments

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 6:18 pm

is illegal....

Posted by lkjdflgj on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 10:56 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 8:51 am

is illegal

Posted by khjkiui on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:20 am

understandable that people would refer to them collectively as "illegals".

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:46 am

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by jhdifgh on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:56 am

safely assume the term has valid currency.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 11:42 am

buffoon the president, helped the Obama administration force tens of millions of people to buy high priced private "health" insurance, and ruled that money is speech in political campaigns

i think we can safely ignore the supreme court at this point

Posted by buifsi on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 11:55 am
Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

too much fox news i guess

you implied that supreme court decisions show legality

i made clear that is not always the case and hence calling something legal simply because the supreme court says so is not valid

so where the supreme court makes good decisions

we got a good decision from a flawed court

there is no contradiction in this series of assumptions

except when viewed by your tiny sub 100 iq mind

Posted by blkdjfg on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

happen to disagree with is "flawed"?

That's why we have SCOTUS, so that people like you don't have any power.

Anyway, it's not a matter of whether the word "illegal" is "legal" because words are not legal or illegal anyway. They simply have meanings and, if they do, they can be used.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

child can understand, that when one disagrees with a decision they believe it is flawed decision

what a revelation!

why do you so often state the obvious as if it is a point of disagreement?

so that you can pretend in your own tiny mind that you are some kind debate master?

the bottom line is

in real life

regardless of court precedent or laws or textbooks or your pathetically stupid and retrograde neanderthalic perspective on the universe

no person

is illegal

Posted by kjdfhk on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

in most common usage. If you want to use some other word or euphemism for "illegal", nobody can stop you.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by ndjkfu on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 11:03 am

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by hdhgkj on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 11:05 am

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by jhdifgh on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 11:01 am

No person is illegal, except for people who steal lilli's nics!

Posted by racer さ on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 9:06 am

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by khjkiui on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:23 am

Really? Then why can't I buy beach property in Mexico, like any Mexican could ?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:36 am

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by kksjh on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:43 am

Really? Then why can't I buy beach property in Mexico, like any Mexican could ?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:36 am

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by kksjh on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:44 am

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by ndksdjfh on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 11:04 am

I like the tone there that this poor woman is sentenced to live in Mexico because she married someone.

It's awful that he has to file all that paper work, to get back in the USA, he should be moved to the head of the line, ahead of other people who married American citizens we hope.

Posted by Matlock on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

Let any one on Earth who wants to move to the United States in!

Golden Gate Park is a prime location for a favela!

No borders! Let a billion people move here - we can handle it!

Posted by racer さ on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 9:08 am

Don't forget to make them financially equal to everyone else when they get here!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 9:26 am

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by khjkiui on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:22 am

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by khjkiui on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:24 am

The era of stagnant or declining low-end wages in the US coincides with a post-1965 surge in legal and illegal low-wage immigration. Leftists want high immigration rates and more equality, but can't seem to connect the dots.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 9:54 am

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by khjkiui on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:21 am

Hey all of you whining about how high demand for San Francisco apartments is and how expensive they have become. Just think how much the demand would be lowered and how much the rents would fall…. if EVERY ILLEGAL ALIEN where removed from the city.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 9:57 am

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by khjkiui on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:19 am

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by khjkiui on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:25 am

Re: Indocumentados

Muchísimas gracias for using the neutral language undocumented in the article.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 6:18 pm

commonly used.

Not that you care what the citizens of this country think, of course, otherwise you wouldn't abuse our laws and our hospitality.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

gutless pussy

such a coward that you attack vulnerable people instead of those who can fight back

Posted by lkjsok on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 12:32 am
Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

Why would you care what someone calls you? The only real reason is because you are afraid the term "illegal" will reflect the individual in a negative way. Here's the thing though you aren't fooling anyone. We get it, the term "undocumented" is a feeble attempt to politically desensitize the population to be more PC. It seems the only laws people on this side like to follow are only laws that are self serving. Which is also the only way I see people vote lately. This is the part where I am called a troll for disagreeing with the sad individuals on this weak comment thread.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 2:02 am

"Illegal" is a pejorative term meant to dehumanize people, and it's not even a very accurate or descriptive term. Forever labeling someone with a visa violation, or who was brought here as a child, is letting one act define a person's entire existence. It would be more accurate to label me an "illegal" because I break traffic laws everyday on my bike. Then again, most people also routinely break laws, from traffic laws to drug laws to not fully reporting every dollar of income on their taxes. Yet you choose to use this dehumanizing label on for poor people who don't look or talk like you. Gee, I wonder why that is.

Posted by steven on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

I use the term "illegal" routinely to describe those who are here illegally. And yet I do not dislike them, do not report them and, indeed, I hire them thereby helping them.

Better to call them "illegals" and help them, than to use some euphemism and then ignore them.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

When you label HUMAN,S with label,s such as ,alien, illegal,s,or as in the case of the poor during world war two in Romania .The Nazi,s would label them as stateless nomadic,s( poor undocumented HUMAN,S) .It became much easier to toss them in the oven.Fortunately in this case some of us have the ability to empathize .I would suggest sensitivity training to those of you who don;t and have had the luxury to escape poverty and discrimination and now stand here judging the true native,s of this continent. Look for a history education (not your warped legal one)and while your at it see about picking up a soul .Shame on you.

Posted by Tory Antoni on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 2:09 am

Everybody is an immigrant in every color even the animals are, but racist people pick only to Mexicans. Is Just ignorant. Society is just sick and being a sheep.

Posted by CHANGE THE SOCIETY WHO ARE BLIND TO SEE THE TRUTH on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 2:19 am

so you are directing your comment to the authors as well?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 8:34 am

Look when bitchass colombus and his followers destroy the everything when they came here.

Posted by ldsvgdnd on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 2:40 am

It would be amazing to see how far everyone could go in life if they dropped the past and stopped looking for someone to blame their problems on. Truth is I do not care and I guarantee the people do not care.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 11:41 am

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