This article is a guest post written by Cesar S.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to travel the world. This past April, I went on the most exciting trip I have taken in more than a decade — I went to Chicago to attend a conference for work.
Yes, I know what you are thinking: “lame,” or “that’s not traveling,” or so on. But I was really excited. I enjoyed every single thing about my trip, from checking in to the flight to my middle seat on the plane. I even enjoyed going through the TSA security check point! When I arrived in Chicago, just knowing I was more than a thousand miles from home in a new place and in a different time zone was enough for me to feel like a traveler.
But more than anything, this trip reminded me that I am now 28 years old and I haven’t been outside of the United States, except for the first six years of my life when I lived in Mexico. I haven’t been to any of the places I dream of visiting — Machu Picchu, Tokyo, Barcelona, Brazil, Buenos Aires, Greece, or Turkey. I haven’t even been back to Mexico to visit my ailing grandmother.
So, why can’t I travel? The reason is this: If I leave the country, I won’t be able to come home.
You see, I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
My parents brought me and my five brothers and sisters to this country when I was six years old. We crossed the border in search of a better life, but without the papers we needed to live and work legally. Despite the challenges, I grew up like lots of other American kids: I went to elementary and high school in the San Francisco Bay Area, graduated from college with a degree in Political Science, and now work in health and economic advocacy. I love cooking, soccer, hiking, cycling, camping, road trips on the beautiful California Coast, and nerding-out over U.S./world politics and current events. Like any natural-born American citizen, I care deeply about the progress and prosperity of my home — the United States.
Because I was busy working at the conference, I didn’t have the chance to do much while I was in Chicago. To be honest, I didn’t even leave O’Hare since the conference was at the airport Hilton.
Still, the feeling I got when the plane took off down the runway was enough to remind me that I don’t want to go another 22 years without having the opportunity to experience the world. I teared up as the plane took off because at that very moment I felt like what I imagine you may feel when you get on a plane to a foreign destination. I felt free.
As the debate over immigration reform continues in the House of Representatives, I thought I would share what immigration reform means to me. First and foremost, immigration reform means respect, security, and dignity for people who have risked everything to build a better life for their children. People like me will no longer have to live in fear of being discovered, being deported, and having their families ripped apart. Workers living in the shadows will no longer need to fear the abuse and unfair treatment that is rampant in the underground economy. Undocumented students who have grown up in the United States, attended university and graduate schools will have the freedom to be the next generation of doctors, engineers, and professionals that our country desperately needs.
But immigration reform also means giving aspiring travelers like me the chance to experience the world. It gives me the hope that one day I’ll be able to travel, experience other cultures, and serve as an ambassador myself, which all travelers knows is the way we work to bridge divides and make the world a better place.
— Cesar S.
Want to learn more about this issue and speak out in support of aspiring travelers?
- U.S. citizens/residents: Tell your member of Congress to support the House Immigration Bill that was introduced this past week. Sign this petition and then use the provided links to share it on social media and show your support.
- Everyone: Common hashtags being used to cover immigration reform on social media include, #Immigration, #TimeIsNow, and #CIR (which stands for comprehensive immigration reform). Use these hashtags to share your story about what travel has taught you about human rights, compassion, and social and economic justice.
- Also, share this post on social media to spread the word about this rarely discussed travel topic.
These are some organizations that I (Cassie) follow that are working for humane immigration reform with a path to citizenship for our 11 million undocumented friends and neighbors:
- America’s Voice
- Reform Immigration for America Now
- United We Dream: Immigrant youth brought to the U.S. as kids (“DREAM-ers”) organizing for comprehensive immigration reform.
- Define American: An organization started by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (and undocumented immigrant) Jose Antonio Vargas
- Fwd.US: An organization started by Facebook-founder Mark Zuckerberg and other leaders in the tech community to push for comprehensive immigration reform to help keep U.S. economy competitive.
- Travel Coalition: The lobbying arm of the U.S. travel industry that is supportive of some components of immigration reform, though it hasn’t taken a public stance on a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Are you a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program? Check out this article for important things to consider before you apply to travel abroad. (Thanks to Matt Hershberger, for sharing!)