What the past can teach immigrant advocates of today

In paying my respects to those that came before me and their struggle due to their legal status, I share an excerpt of this 1995 LA Times article featuring the first undocumented student body President of California State University, Northridge, Vladimir Cerna (1996-1997), about his life and advocacy efforts to fight the Donald Trumps of his time.

 

Translation from German: “No one is Illegal” Photo credit: Nancy Landa

 

There is section of the article that caught my attention, when Vladimir recalls the judge’s statement during an immigration hearing where he and his family were granted legal status:

He [judge] said that when you take a young plant from the ground and put it in a pot, that plant can grow for years. The roots form. It expands. And it is unrealistic to expect that the plant can now be ripped from the pot and asked to adapt to the land it came from.*

If only policy-makers and society at large were able to understand the judge’s reasoning, migration policy would look very different today not only for undocumented youth that have grown up in a country that has legally excluded them, but also for their families who are only seeking a better life. Perhaps today there would exist more legal routes for people to immigrate instead of the escalation of restrictive immigration policies we have seen in the past two decades.

If only today’s generation of U.S. undocumented youth and immigrant advocates understood more about the history of the struggle for immigrant rights, the fight and narrative might be different, more inclusive of those that have been arbitrarily left out of current immigration policies including economic migrants, failed asylum-seekers and deportees. Maybe the past has the answer to what the future of the immigrant movement should look like and that is where we should start if we are to counteract the current migration “crisis” we are seeing around the globe, from Europe to the Unites States.

Let 2016 be the year we build more bridges instead of borders so that we create a world that honors humanity over hate and ignorance. A world where love and respect transcend the men-made walls that have separated us from “them”. Optimism and commitment to the good fight in times of crisis are only for the brave. Cheers!

*Click HERE for full article, “Life After 187 : CSUN Student Looks Past Controversy to Future”, Los Angeles Times, October 15, 1995.
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