I have been following your blog and the DreamActivist website for some time. My story is the same as yours and everyone elses. I came here at the tender age of one from Guatemala. I beat all the odds and graduated High School with all the honors and achievements possible but my status prevented me from going further. I have been very lucky on one end. I have amazing parents who always worked and provided for us. My dad was very blessed to have a high powered very good paying job. He could provide for my family which includes my mom, my three sisters and I. But like millions of others, his license expired and he could not renew it. His job depended on him being able to drive.
We aren’t the type of people to sit back and wait. We are hard workers. My dad started his own little business and finds jobs in the same fields he worked in before but now as a contractor. He is not employed by anyone and doesn’t have to do all that E-verify junk. Which of course he wouldn’t pass because neither he, my mom, nor I have papers. He takes the risk every day driving around doing his job. Before it was easier because if he got a ticket all he had to do was pay it. In the last month several of the surrounding counties have passed the racists laws. If he gets stopped for even the most minor traffic violation, since he has no license, he automatically gets arrested and within the next few hours is transferred to the ICE detention center that is 2 hours away. It has literally become a man hunt here. Just yesterday we heard of a man who was pulled over on his way to work for driving 10 miles over the speed limit. He’s just like us; not licensed. By 5pm that same day he was in ICE custody. He left behind a 6 month pregnant wife and a 2 year old daughter both with no papers.
I am so scared for my dad. He has to work, my family needs him. But providing for our family has become a risk and I know that we are not the only ones in this situation. How do I handle this Angy? How are we supposed to avoid situations like these when this is what gets us from day to day?
I hope all is well with you and I thank you for emailing me about this sensitive issue.
It’s extremely difficult to travel outside of major cities without public transportation. Many areas have no buses or trains at all and this pushes us, undocumented folks, to resort to driving without a license because at the end of the day we also need to get to work, to school or go out and have fun like any regular family. The sad part is that many in positions of power do not understand this push and pull. If undocumented folks were allowed to get licenses, we wouldn’t be driving without a license.
I am privileged enough to live in New York which has a good public transportation system, that I often times take for granted, which allows me to get to school or work in about an hour without worrying about driving without a license. However, it’s not the same for upstate New York, the subway system does not run through the whole state, and it makes life difficult for many not just here but across the country.
Some things that can be done in regards to driving are: find work closer to home so he can ride a bike or walk there. I know this is extremely difficult if he is working as a contractor in the fields and needs to carry his tools and things. So it may not be such a good idea unless he leaves his stuff at the site or something of that sort. Your father can also team up with someone who is licensed to help with the driving part, a family member, friend or neighbor. This can be a little hectic since your father will need to depend on someone else and judging from your email, I don’t think he is like that at all. This CAN be done; it’ll just be a headache. Your family can also relocate to another state that allows for undocumented folks to get licenses, or a place with a better public transportation system so everyone can get around easier. Of course, this is a huge change and your father would need to relocate his business elsewhere, which is risky, and everyone would be starting life over in a new place.
I want to tell you that “driving carefully” is the best thing to do but it doesn’t make a difference in places where police are racially profiling our community and stopping anyone for looking “suspicious”. We need to know our rights as humans living in this country. Our rights are not just limited to police interactions but also dealing with ICE and how to stop a deportation. The National Immigrant Youth Alliance and DreamActivist.org have been stopping the deportations of undocumented folks for some time now and I suggest getting involved, not just for your family but for others around you who are being put in proceedings and ultimately being deported as well. It would be good for you to find a pro-bono lawyer just in case someone in your family is detained.
Hopefully the Deferred Action policy is actually implemented so those who meet the requirements can obtain a license and help their family out. I’m sorry for not being able to provide more information or a clear cut answer, this system is very tricky to navigate for people like us and unfortunately there really isn’t a definite answer. The government keeps trying to make it impossible for us to survive but easy for the country to profit off of us. Feel free to contact me for anything else, I’m here for anything.
Created on Oct 21, 2010. Ask Angy is the first undocumented youth advice column. It was born in the New York State Youth Leadership Council because there was no space to ask questions or seek advice. This blog is a space for youth to email their concerns, questions, stories or simply ask for help without being judged. Email them to Angy at Angy@nysylc.org or fill out this form.
This is a space to let it all out! You don’t have to bottle it up inside. Your stories and worries matter! You are not alone. Remember, the insecurities and fears you have, someone else is them having too. Don’t be afraid to speak out.
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