Dulce Guerrero became active in defending immigrant rights this year after an April 5 action where seven undocumented students were arrested for protesting against the Georgia college ban, a move by education officials to bar academically qualified undocumented immigrants from attending the state’s five most selective public universities. The Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance, GUYA, formed from that point forward. Dulce says, “I would like GUYA to become a safe space where undocumented students can share their stories and feel connected with other students like them. This way they are able to organize and mobilize their communities.”
On June 28, Dulce Guerrero, Jessica Vasquez, Rolando Zenteno, Nataly Ibarra, Felipe Baeza, and Leeidy Solis were all arrested in an act of civil disobedience while protesting Georgia’s anti-immigrant law at the state capitol. All have been released. As Julianne Hing reported, the state went ahead this month with adopting provisions of HB 87, which restricts immigrants’ access to public benefits and mandates the adoption of E-Verify, the controversial federal employment-verification database.
July is all about the “Summer of Human Rights” in Georgia. Advocates and community members will take part in activities that claim human dignity and turn the tide on the state’s anti-immigrant climate and policies. For more information on how to get involved, visit Somos Georgia at wearegeorgia.org or Turning the Tide at altopolimigra.com.
For the “I Am…” storytelling project, people from all walks of life relate experiences, demand respect and reject criminalizing language about immigrants. Stories are gathered in collaboration with allies and campaign partners.
I Am Taking Action in Georgia
My name is Dulce Guerrero and I am undocumented.
My parents brought me to this country at the age of 2–parents who, like many others, were in search of a brighter life and future for my brother and I. I started preschool here in Georgia and graduated from Pebblebrook High School this May.
Growing up, I always knew I was undocumented, but I never really understood what that meant.
These thoughts frustrated and confused me. I remember hearing “illegal aliens” on TV all of the time as a child. The words made me feel like I had done something wrong, as if I was a bad person. The derogatory language is still used by many people in government and media to single out and criminalize immigrants. Some people come away from hearing the i-word thinking it’s the correct term to use and acceptable way to think about people, while many of us receive the false message that we are less of a person because of our immigration status.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school that I started to realize the ways in which I was different from everyone else. I watched as my friends began to obtain their learner’s permits to drive and to apply for jobs–things I am not allowed to do. I started to comprehend why families were being torn apart; why mothers stayed up at night praying that their husbands would come home safely. I became depressed and angry, causing me to withdraw both physically and emotionally from my friends and family. I spent a lot of time alone, wondering why I had been put in this situation and questioning whether it was my fault.
My favorite spot to sit and reflect upon my life was behind the staircase of my high school, next to a huge window with a spectacular view of the school’s patio. As I sat there one day, my mother’s words constantly echoed in my head: “If you want a better life, you need to pursue higher education.” At that moment, things clicked! I realized that although I was in an unfortunate situation, I was the only one who had the power to change it.
After visiting a couple of schools that didn’t know how to handle my case, I finally met an admissions recruiter who knew exactly what I was going through. But she also told me that for now a four-year school might be out of my reach financially, and recommended that I look into more affordable schooling. I felt like my world shattered, and I didn’t know what to say.
Before I left her office that day, she told me about the DREAM Act, a bill in Congress that could help students like me. I became as knowledgeable as I could on it. While I researched, I scrolled through stories of students across the U.S going through very similar situations, stories they had courageously written and decided to share with the world. I would stay up at night with tears in my eyes reading these stories, exhilarated by the sense of hope and relief they gave me. These stories empowered me to get up and get active. Realizing that I was not alone and that everything my parents had worked so hard for was not going to be in vain motivated me even more!
The passage of HB 87 is an attack on the immigrant community of Georgia, one that makes me worry for the safety of my own family, for my mother, who has already faced jail time due to her immigration status. The ban on undocumented students at Georgia’s top five universities has already forced my friends to leave school and seek other options, while they simultaneously fight for its repeal.
I have been networking and connecting with amazing youth from all over the country, who have made the decision to stop running away and to stand up and fight! Through our organizing skills, personal stories and truth-telling, we are more powerful than anyone sitting in any government building today. Undocumented youth in Georgia should know that they are not alone. There are 74,000 youth who share their stories and experiences, and I ask each and every one of them to shed their fears and come out. I ask them to take a stand. They are our neighbors, our friends, our peers and members of our community. The signing of HB 87 has now awakened a larger movement here in Georgia. This is only the beginning and we are not turning back.
My name is Dulce. I am undocumented and I am no longer afraid. I am taking action.