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We want to congratulate these young people who have joined UNLV’s student government this semester as they embark on their journeys to create a more inclusive campus. 

Young People, when informed and empowered, 

when they realize that what they do truly make 

a difference, can indeed change the world.” 

-Jane Goodall

 

Many young people are inclined to think they do not have a voice. There’s a saying that those who don’t have a voice are spoken for by someone else, mostly someone who has power. 

 

“Every single person, every individual HAS a voice, but they aren’t being heard or listened to,” says Maryam Raja, a first-generation American and Hijabi Muslim who was elected Senator for UNLV’s student government this fall semester.

 

She believes, and she knows how vital a diverse community is and how neglected their opinions and ideas are. She hopes to change the narrative that there are people without voices, all of us have voices, and we have the will and power to make a change, no matter the background one may come from. By being part of the student body, she feels she can reflect the change for all students. Instead of using her position to expand her resume for herself, her reasons to be active in the student body are to solve issues with student leaders and be a representative of the diverse student body. Maryam knows people can take a step forward in their community to make the changes they want to see. Some of the changes Maryam has considered taking the initiative on are menstrual inequity, helping those with trouble obtaining feminine hygiene products. She also plans to implement a transportation waiver system that will allow students to commute to and from campus, relieving them from financial issues. Another plan is to create a support system for students affected by the pandemic through a workshop.

 

Another young student, Abraham Lugo, Vice President of UNLV’s student government, a DACA recipient, who is bisexual, has stated he will never forget where he came from and has accomplished having undocumented students be seen. 

“No matter what I do, or position I am in, or who I’m advocating for, it makes it impossible for me as a representative, as a person, to forget who I am.”

In this generation of labels, Abraham thanks his parents, for giving him the morals he has today. For him, it has been a struggle with all of the barriers that being an immigrant but he has never considered as a block in his path. Abraham took notice of how there were no scholarships for undocumented students. So he took the initiative to write legislation, and now there are scholarships for undocumented individuals at UNLV. 

 

Both of these fantastic young people of color will continue to remember their roots and use their identities as tools to bring the community together. Their voices and the need to make changes for the student body will lead them to do far greater things for the future.

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Three days filled with actions took place in the past few weeks in Washington, DC. Each day was filled with the storytelling of directly impacted folks who have bravely fought for their rights in each of their respective states. Now, we have all joined forces yet again, as we have in years past, to demand a pathway to citizenship for all the 11 million people who currently reside in the United States. Decades of activism and sacrifice have culminated to this very point in history. Our gente are chanting, singing, dancing, and telling their stories in hopes that our elected officials listen to them instead of an unelected position whose opinion is simply that, an opinion. 

 

Our team went to DC and marched and chanted in an effort to have their voices transcend through the walls of the capitol and into the ears of the elected officials whose promises have fallen flat. Our team returned with a sense of anger and empowerment:

 

“It was both empowering and angering to be a part of the movement in the fight for citizenship for all. I saw many others doing the same as me. Walking miles in the sun, holding signs, loudly chanting while dehydrated. But we never gave up.

 

 It was sad because I know the politicians we were directing our chants to, were in an office with air conditioning or at home with their families, feeling secure. 

 

We work so hard to be heard but we’re being ignored right now.” -Kathia Sotelo Calderon, a DACA recipient who came to the states at the young age of just 7 years old. 

 

“Lobbying in Washington D.C. as an undocumented person gave me a sense of assertiveness, a right to have a public existence in a country that does not consider me part of its fabric, at least on paper. I have been living in the United States for 30 years and still do not have status. However, the impact of going to the capital of the United States of America will stay with me forever. 

 

And if in the process, we get something done, it won’t be because the governing powers wanted it, it will be because we organized and forced our government to fulfill our true needs.

 

It takes a lot of courage to come out of the shadows and tell the whole world that you are undocumented, it takes even more courage to get on a plane, travel over 2,000 miles, and demand to members of congress that they render you visible and fulfill their promise of providing citizenship for millions. That is agency.” -Rico Ocampo, a DACA recipient who came to the states at the young age of 3 years old. 

 

The fight won’t stop until our gente have access to a pathway to citizenship! Our people are fighting. Our people have fought for decades. They are true Americans. They are true champions. When the people rise up, the government trembles.

 

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The People Affected

The subject of DACA is more than a piece of legislation, it is more than statistics, it is the stories of our friends and families whose struggle often gets criticized for having come to the states illegally. Those who do not qualify for DACA are left with an unnecessarily more difficult way to achieve citizenship and are excluded from an idea of ‘exceptional undocumented youth’. This idea of exceptionalism comes from the many requirements that a person must meet in order to qualify for the DREAM Act. These requirements include having at least a High School diploma, having no serious convictions, and being of ‘good moral character’. These requirements feed the narrative of the good versus the bad immigrant. These ideas and labels promote division among the immigrant community and create a false perception of the undocumented and documented immigrant community.

Our families and friends have DACA, others don’t, but either way, they are human and are deserving of respect and dignity. Their stories play an important role in the grander immigrant story. 

Audrey lives in Las Vegas and identifies as a DREAMer. For her, like many others, the term brought with it a sense of belonging in a world where she felt as though there was no place for her. Being born in another country and brought to the states as a young child she grew up in the states, lives in the states, has a life in the states, the states and life here are all she knows;

“ I don’t feel like an immigrant, this is my home, this my space, this is my culture, this is all I know, I’m not an immigrant. I don’t know anything else.”Audrey, DREAMer and Make the Road NV’s (MRNV) economic organizer.

For those who do not qualify for DACA, the reality is far more daunting as they have no protections against deportations, are left with a more difficult way to citizenship, have to find jobs willing to pay them in cash, and are oftentimes subject to abuse. Due to their fears of being deported, these abuses sometimes go unreported. This unfortunate reality is lived on a daily basis by many. An MRNV member identifies as undocumented and ‘feels as though there is a target on her back’. The term DREAMer to her reflects a dream that she doesn’t want to be her life. She wants it to be her reality, a path to citizenship, a safe job, a safe place for her family. 

DACAmented folks often are met with questions about their status and are criticized for not being a citizen. These questions may come with positive intentions, however, they produce emotions of frustration and of hopelessness as a result of the difficulty to navigate the immigration system,

“People have been fed an idea that [the immigration system] works and that it is a straight line to citizenship, but it isn’t.” Lalo Montoya, political director of MRNV, member of the DACAmented community.

When asked about what the documented community can do to help the fight for citizenship, Lalo “Be an agent of change with me [ I encourage you] to imagine a country that doesn’t yet exist. Fight with me to make it happen. I need to know that you are gonna shield me from deportation, that you are gonna be a part of the movement, [not] just be a bystander. I’m not asking you to lead [the movement], I’m asking you to [help] fuel it. Reimagine the country as what it should be. Don’t just watch it happen, be a part of it. Don’t feel that you can’t speak up because you are not directly impacted.”

DACA is in no way perfect, but it does alleviate some of the fears that come with being undocumented. Our community deserves to work in a safe environment, earn good wages, have equal access to help, and should be able to live without fear for what may come. Our families are not at fault for the lack of a path to citizenship. This week we want our DACAmented family to know that we hear you, we fight alongside you, and we will stand with you and before you in this fight to citizenship, this path to dignity and respect. Join our fight and consider donating to the DACA fund to help those in our community renew their DACA. 

Call to action for DACAmented community- urge those who can vote to vote, don’t give up, we are with you!

For info on immigrant justice and MRNV please contact us at amigxs@maketheroadnv.org 

To donate to the DACA fund:  http://bit.ly/DonateMRNV  

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The Supreme Court decided that the current administration’s attempt to dismantle DACA and its protections was unlawful and struck it down. This victory for the DACAmented community has given us hope and drive to continue the fight for a clear road to citizenship. With this decision, renewals are being accepted, however, with this ruling the fees to do so may rise from the current price of $495. Many folks have lost their jobs and thus renewing the DACA of their children may be out of reach. Given this reality, we ask that you consider donating to our LV Dream Fund to help alleviate the pressures of financial hardship felt in these trying circumstances by our DACAmented families. All of the funds will be used to pay for fees related to renewing and applying for DACA.  http://bit.ly/MRNVdonate

 

Make The Road Nevada fights for social justice. We stand with immigrants, the DACAmented, the undocumented, the LGBTQIA+ community, the Black community, and the working class. We stand with every community that faces injustices and we fight for our Nevadan community to become a better, more inclusive, and respectful community. Join us in our fight for equality and justice! Follow us on any of our social platforms.

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