Benita Veliz, a young Hispanic from San Antonio, proclaimed her unauthorized status and her support for President Obama in front of millions of television viewers at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday. But her enthusiasm for the incumbent is not universal among the undocumented.
Veliz has lived in fear of deportation since she came to the United States at age 16. “I’ve had to live almost my entire life knowing I could be deported because of the way I came here,” she told the convention. But the high school honor student and college double-major feels “just as American as any of my friends or neighbors.”
Veliz supports President Obama for his advocacy of the Dream Act, and for passing an executive order earlier this summer dubbed “dream relief” that will allow young undocumented immigrants like herself to stay in the country for two years to pursue work and studies without the threat of immediate deportation.
Other “illegal” immigrants are not so confident the president is on their side. On Tuesday, a group of 10 undocumented activists concluded a six-week journey from Arizona to Charlotte aboard the “No Papers, No Fear” bus. The group drew attention to themselves by blocking traffic in uptown Charlotte. Their goal was to shine a light on Obama’s efforts against undocumented immigrants, including the much-printed fact that the president has deported more immigrants than any of his predecessors. Obama has defended that record, saying his policies are focused on criminals, not “folks who are looking to scrape together an income.”
All of the protesters who came out Tuesday knew they faced possible deportation if they were detained. Some were arrested, but all were released. Tania Unzueta, an undocumented activist who was among those apprehended, along with her father, mother and sister, said that protesting in a public place with lots of media attention reduced their chances of being deported.
“From what we know, political pressure and community pressure affects the way that immigration and that the sheriffs work,” Unzueta told “Democracy Now!” “Every single disobedience that we have had, starting from two years ago, when undocumented youth started taking the streets and started taking political offices, no one has been deported. And then, we know that deportations continue, regardless of whether it’s low-priority or high-priority immigrants. We know that our own communities’ families keep being broken apart—except when we do it publicly, except when we do civil disobedience publicly.”
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Benita Veliz speaks at the Democratic National Convention.