A recent government report reveals that the Obama administration deported more than 46,000 undocumented persons with U.S born children within the first six months of last year alone.
Undocumented immigrants do not live in isolation; we are integral members of of our communities. We are people's brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, loved ones, friends, neighbors and co-workers. These deportations affect and shatter entire communities who will not forget the hard working immigrants who were forced out of their lives and their communities.
I know this personally. I live in a mixed-status family, and I am the only undocumented person in my family. But my family situation is not an exception -- it is a common reality for many in the U.S. Although all of my siblings are U.S-born citizens, I have not been able to adjust my status due to this nation's broken immigration system. Being the only person in my family without documentation has been an intense experience.
I am also the first person in my family to graduate from high school and college. Although I cannot personally vote, I have built strong bonds with many people who do have that right and will exercise it. Of the many elements missing from the conversation on immigration, are the voices of citizens who support immigrant rights. One of those people is my younger brother Jaime Vega, who is currently a 3rd year Global Studies major at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I interviewed him to see how this country's broken immigration policies have affected him personally.
What has your experience been like living in a mixed-status household?
Having an undocumented sister has shown me the struggles that many students in her situation are experiencing. It has shown me, first hand, the resilience and commitment it takes to access higher education in a public institutional system that offers no aid to undocumented immigrant students who are denied an even playing field because of their citizenship status. Seeing my older sister break the barriers of higher education by attending and graduating UCLA motivated me and our entire family to pursue higher education. Seeing all the barriers she had to overcome I knew that I needed to attend college because if she could do it I did not have an excuse not to.
Seeing the activism my sister has been a part of has lead to me become more socially conscious of anti-immigrant policies and the ramifications of such policy-making. Although I am U.S citizen, immigration hits close to home and is an issue that I deeply care about because it has a real impact in my family's life.
How do anti-immigration policies affect you as a U.S Citizen?
Anti-immigration policies such as SB1070, among other discriminatory policies and legislation, have made me aware of the backward progress we are taking to promote equal access to higher education and equality. We know that SB1070 was not only targeting undocumented people, it is a clear example of racial profiling where anyone that looked "undocumented" was at risk of being profiled.
As a U.S citizen why do you care about immigration?
Because I do have papers, that is even more reason to care, and do something about these unjust policies that are negligent and discriminatory. Because I have the access to vote and to be represented, that gives me the need to fulfill my responsibility as an "American" and ensure that laws and policies that are unconstitutional do not become the norm.
I have seen how policies have dehumanized my sister, the undocumented community and the overall Latino communities. Because I can vote, I must vote, and be consciously aware that these policies are affecting my family, my sister, and the community. This nation's broken immigration policies do not only affect the undocumented people in my family, they affect me as well.