On May 28, 2013, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman invited the Omaha South High School boys soccer team to a lunch in honor of their recent state championship. The team decided to use this opportunity to deliver a letter expressing their disappointment in the governor’s decision to not issue driver’s licenses to young undocumented immigrants who have received a temporary reprieve from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. The governor’s decision also prompted the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) to file suit against the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles.
Even though the team indicated in the letter that they were honored by the governor’s invitation, some people are still calling their move brash when they should be calling it brave. How often do regular people get a chance to have a face-to-face meeting with their elected official to discuss important community issues? Very rarely. Even if immigration was not part of the lunch agenda, the boys soccer team had every right to use the event to bring awareness to this issue. In fact, one could argue that it was their responsibility to inform the governor about how his decision affected his constituents. After all, isn’t that what democracy is all about?
Note: Armando Cruz Martinez is a 19-year-old student who was born in Austin, Texas, to undocumented parents. Since 2010, however, he has been involuntarily separated from his family. Three years ago, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents took his father. His mother, father, five sisters, and younger brother currently live in poverty in Mexico. Ever since, Armando has taken up the cause fighting for immigration reform with our Affiliate, Latin American Coalition in Charlotte, NC. This is his story.
“Our separation began on March 31, 2010: the day my father was taken by ICE agents. It happened right after I left the house for school. When I came home that day, I found my mother sitting in the living room crying. She told me that my dad was gone. I didn’t believe her because the whole idea seemed impossible to me; it felt like a bad dream. We tried to get in touch with my dad in the Mecklenburg County jail, but after a few days, he was sent to Georgia and then deported to Mexico. With my dad gone, my mother could not afford for our family to stay in our house, so we moved to a one-bedroom apartment. Life felt so unstable, and I realized that this was not just a temporary situation for us. My mother had to make a decision: either stay in the United States alone with her kids or go back to Mexico to be with her husband. She chose to take us to Mexico.