Wetback. And Proud.

Border Patrol Photo from Shutterstock.Com When I first arrived to the United States in 1983, I was often called “wetback.”  Kids at the school called my brother and I “wetbacks” as a reminder that we didn’t belong in this country.  We also were told not to speak Spanish because if we did, we needed to go back to El Salvador.  I don’t know that in order to survive I needed to remain proud of being: Salvadoran, immigrant and wetback.

Being an immigrant in the US means to constantly be fighting for a way to be seen and valued.  Dominant culture often portrays immigrants as ignorant, undeserving, and takers of government benefits.  Immigrants’ contributions to the US economy are often ignored and minimized.  Mainstream media never talks about the cheap labor they lend to every economic sector of this country. The dehumanization of immigrants makes it easy to hunt them.

Immigration detention centers are a rapid growing industry in the US. Last year alone, the business of jailing immigrants generated 5 billion dollars in profits for private companies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vuGE1VxVsYo#

Every day, women and children are put in these detention centers, breaking apart families and communities all across the US.

Just a week ago, Jose Asencio shared with me his painful story of family separation. His wife, Maria, has been detained for 8 months ago.  Maria’s case is still pending in immigration court. In the meantime, Jose is working really hard to take care of their 3 sons.  He fears about the emotional cost this separation will have on his children. Jose says that one of his children is struggling with overeating because of his mother’s absence. Jose’s voice breaks while talking about Maria not being there to celebrate family birthdays. He cries and longs for the days when his family was together during the holidays.

Sadly, Jose’s story is one of many.  At the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, we are working to take stand against this injustice and against in any form of incarceration that takes human dignity away. 

Having crossed the border illegally is an experience I will never forget. It has helped me become an activist.  Please join me to demand from President Obama to bring families together during this holiday season and stop funding immigration detention centers. You can take action by signing on to this petition.

If you live in Northern California, you can also join us in our annual legacy event. This year will highlight the activism of immigrants who fight to be visible. 

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