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11.3 Million Strong

“You may write me down in history / With your bitter, twisted lies, / You may trod me in the very dirt / But still, like dust, I'll rise.”—Maya Angelou

Made Outside America

I have spent countless hours exposing and writing about my own experiences. I have spent countless hours in meetings, planning actions, and sharing my story. I have chased down politicians and staked out their locations. I have sat in offices for hours hoping to share my story, hoping that it will drive those in power to stand alongside us. I have marched in the frigid cold and overwhelming heat with my undocumented community, fighting for our voices to be heard.

My community has put the little we have on the line. We have risked deportation as part of our daily existence and constantly fear the separation of our families. We have been outspoken after being quiet so long for fear of retaliation. We have been persistent. We have continued living our lives as best we can despite all the people who tell us that our existence is wrong, that we are illegal.

My people have thrived. We have thrived in the face of obstacles unimaginable by the people who hold our fates in their hands. We have thrived through border crossings and exploitation. We have thrived through detention and deportation. We have thrived through wage theft and abuse. We have shouted at the top of our lungs while tears flowed uncontrollably down our cheeks.

We have been criminalized to the point where our humanity has come into question. My community has been reduced to statistics on our economic worth. We have been reduced to people who can only provide physical labor and then told to leave for stealing jobs. We have been employed by the same people who want to deport us. We have been called lazy in one sentence and job-stealers in the next.

We are forced to prove our humanity in the midst of xenophobic rhetoric. We compete with the framing of immigrants presented by politicians through the media they dominate. We take action and protest to reclaim the power that’s been taken from us. We make our struggles public to gain attention for our real narratives. We strive to tell our own truths so that those in power can’t keep getting away with telling their own lies.

We have been toyed with as politicians give us empty promises in exchange for photo-ops. We have been promised unconditional support to our faces and given no solutions on paper. We have had politicians try to pin us against each other through the good-versus-bad-immigrant narrative. We have had our youth held up as examples of the only members worth saving in our community. We are given scholarships as our parents are given blame.

Our community is never acknowledged in its entirety for all that it is worth. We are never seen for all the stories that we bring. We are not seen for all our different cultures, languages, and experiences. To be part of this undocumented community means to be part of a community of all different skin tones, languages, religions, gender identities, and sexualities. Instead, we are clumped together under the hateful term “illegal immigrant” and stereotyped as the Latino and the criminal.

We are simultaneously separated into all these boxes because of our different backgrounds and united into this one category based on immigration status. But it is this one common identity that has managed to unite us all. Despite politicians’ constant attempts to pin us against each other, we have remained a united front against a common enemy. We have experienced so much harm against our community that we have been forced to find solace amongst ourselves somehow.

We thrive because we have each other. We have gone through hell and back, but still, we thrive. We know who we are. We know our worth exceeds any statistic. We know our humanity and that of those around us. We see the beauty in our strength, our intersectionality, and our resistance. We continue because we know that we are not doing this alone.

We know that we are 11.3 million strong.

Laura S. Veira-Ramirez ’20, a Crimson editorial editor, is a History and Literature concentrator in Leverett House. Her column appears on alternate Mondays.

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