LATINO VOICES
06/17/2013 09:32 am ET | Updated Jun 17, 2013

Undocumented Immigrant Text Game By DoSomething.org Tries To Recreate Immigration Experience

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I’m going to stand on a soapbox, not to address the nation, but to be at eye level with it. At a towering 5’5″ figure, I need all the help I can get.

In case you haven’t already heard, DoSomething.org has a new text game aimed at giving kids a taste of what it’s like to be an undocumented immigrant.

Eager to find out what the fuzz is about? Don’t be. I’ll put your mind at ease.

‘Snap, ur in trouble!’

The following is how the game unfolded after I texted “DREAM” to 38383. My participation is marked in capital letters.

Imagine you’re an undocumented immigrant (aka “illegal immigrant”) graduating high school tomorrow. Text PLAY to start or DETAILS to learn more

PLAY

You can’t get a license because you’re not a U.S. citizen, but public transit is a nightmare in your town. Wake up at 4 a.m. & take the BUS or drive to SCHOOL?

BUS

You rush out the house at 4 a.m., but realize you left a final assignment behind. Risk missing the bus & GRAB it, or FORGET it?

GRAB IT

You miss the bus by a few mins (seriously?!). Ask your mom if SHE can drive you (she has no license) or WALK to school?

WALK

U arrive 5 mins before the bell (FTW!). You meet with your counselor about your plans after graduation. LOOK @ job options or CHAT abt colleges you applied to?

CHAT

You got into your 1st choice school (smartypants), but you can’t get financial aid to pay for school bc ur not a U.S. citizen. REVEAL your situation or LIE?

REVEAL

U came here @ age 4 for medical help on a visa that’s expired. She says you should be deported & leaves the room. Snap, ur in trouble! Txt a friend’s # for help

Undocumented immigrant game lacks substance

I know I’m a few years removed from grade school, but I wanted to see if DoSomething.org was on to something. What I hoped would be witty and thoughtful, turned out to be what VOXXI columnist Tony Castro called, “something out of a schoolyard.”

Being an immigrant myself, I was disappointed at Do Something.org’s half-hearted humor.

Monica Alvarez, a high school friend of mine, commented via Facebook:

“They’re saying ‘kids’… I do think it’s a smart way to reach out and make younger populations aware of what their peers might be going through.”

I disagree wholeheartedly.

People should be free to judge for themselves, but to me, this game lacks substance, sensitivity and creativity. It’s just a flat-out lazy attempt to engage teens.

A few of my family members were close to deportation, and the last thing that crossed their mind was, “Snap, I’m in trouble. I better text a friend.”

This game is an obvious, distasteful attempt to cash in on the popularity that has grown around the DREAM Act and immigration reform.

According to an article by the New York Daily News, DoSomething.org created the game’s “dozens of scenarios” after Roy Naim, an Israeli-born undocumented immigrant and activist from Brooklyn, urged them to do so.

“We thought, ‘Let’s show what [being an undocumented immigrant] really is like,’” Christina Blacken of DoSomething.org, told the Daily News.

Would any teen you know be compelled to play this game?

I don’t know if DoSomething.org did something constructive to show us what being an undocumented immigrant is really like.

Having interviewed a number of people who where involved in the early stages of the Chicano and Latino movement, many of the pioneers often wonder if this young generation is fully aware of the sacrifices made to move the movement forward.

They often wonder if kids are aware of things past, such as California’s attempt to push immediate “official English” mandates from voters.

Or events such as when a California legislator attempted to introduce a bill in 1986 that would have made it illegal for undocumented immigrants to win first prize in the state lottery. This came on the heels of a Mexican undocumented immigrant worker who did just that.

I know Hispanics aren’t the only ones affected by the current immigration policy, but games such as these — as innocent as they aim to be — do nothing to drive change.

As journalists of color, we are asked to be fair and balanced, but others and myself often struggle in defining whether we are to be Hispanic first or journalists first. It’s nearly impossible to separate the two when talking not only about immigration, but other social disadvantages that affect Latinos and people of color as well.

Why?

Because it shapes who we are. It is often our job to educate others and to help bring Latinos onto a more level playing field.

Things like this game do no such thing. They hold us and other immigrants back.

So, as I get off my soapbox let me tell you briefly what being an undocumented immigrant means to me.

It means being tres veces mojado (“a triple wetback“) and fearing the Mexican migra (immigration officials) just as much as any other immigration official.

It means leaving family and comfort behind, risking everything for only a glimmer of hope that things will be better on the other side.

It means that even when you reach legal status, your nerves skyrocket when you reach an immigration checkpoint.

Lastly, to me, it means unwavering optimism that with the right attitude things can be better.

Originally published on VOXXI as Why DoSomething.org’s undocumented immigrant text game misses the mark

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