Undocumented youth hold 'graduation' at Civic Center

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PHOTO BY JESUS

"I'm undocumented and unafraid, queer and unashamed!" Javier Hernandez declared as he took the stage in front of City Hall June 30.

He was one of hundreds of undocumented students from across the western United States who showed up in Civic Center Plaza to celebrate undocumented immigrant youth and students.

During the ceremony, students, dressed  in caps and gowns, told their stories. Many involved a struggle to get through school while unable to work, and uncertainty and fear about their own fate and that of their families. 

Angela Davis spoke in support of the students.

Later, Pomp and Circumstance played as the students marched down the aisles, each taking a turn on stage to say speak their names and their undocumented status, followed with a bold “and I’m unafraid!”

“Our core message today was to celebrate how far the undocumented movement has come,” said Blanca Vazquez, a senior at San Francisco State studying child and adolescent development. “It’s been 10 years since the DREAM Act was first proposed.”

Many protesters were made more hopeful by President Obama’s recent "deferred action" Department of Homeland Security policy directive, calling on officers to defer the depaortaton of many undocumented youth.

“This is a huge win for our communities,” Hernandez said to a cheering crowd, “and you made it happen!”

For Vazquez, the directive is an important step, but there is still much to be done. She participated in a sit-in at Obama campaign offices last week. On day two of the sit-ins, Vasquez said, Obama issued his policy directive.

Vazquez said the group wanted an Executive Order, not a policy directive. They stayed to continue the sit-in, but after the policy directive passed security guards at campaign office stopped allowing them to eat or go to the bathroom. After enduring those conditions for a day, the students stopped the occupation.

Vazquez promised they would be back, however, if “Obama doesn’t implement the policies he promised.”

A video made by immigrant youth in support of the “(und)occupation” of the campaign offices points out that although the policy directive allows DREAMers to apply for deferment and work permits, it does not guarantee either and denied applications can lead to the start of the deportation process. 

One speaker said the was grateful for the directive and hoped to get a work permit, especially after living in fear of deportation her last year of high school. But as an 18-year, she said she was still worried at the prospect of being left alone if her parents are deported to Indonesia. 

“Deportation is not just a Latino issue!” the young woman, a member of Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education, reminded the crowd. 

Hernandez was among dozens who emphasized the intersections between undocumented and queer movements. 

“We want to find a way to bridge communities affected by homophobia and xenophobia,” Hernandez said. “It’s the same struggle.” 

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