Seguir Adelante, Siempre

Guest Post by Olivia Morales | DukeEngage Tucson

It’s honestly hard to believe that my time in Tucson is almost over. It almost feels like I live here now, that’s how comfortable I’ve gotten living in this community. When I think about leaving, I always feel a sort of overwhelming sadness wash over me, thinking about saying goodbye to all the amazing people I’ve met during my 2 month stay. While I certainly don’t think this is end of my love affair with Tucson, I’m wary of the future and worried that I’m abandoning the folks and the work that I’ve done here too soon.

Activist work, as I’ve seen it demonstrated in Tucson, is ever evolving and always, always needed. Just in the time that I’ve been here, a court ruling left DACA recipients wondering if they’re going to lose their status or even be in danger of deportation. I’ve seen many of those in detention centers around the state of Arizona losing their cases and immediately being deported to their home country, where they face violence, corruption, and even death. I’ve witnessed a mass criminalization court proceeding, in which 50+ migrants are charged with illegal entry/re-entry in less than an hour with virtually no legal representation. I’ve heard stories of immigrants from all countries in Latin America about their lost loved ones in the desert, mistreatment, and harassment on all fronts. After all I’ve been a witness to in Tucson, it’s hard to feel any shred of positivity for the future, especially because of the administration we are under at this time.

But then I think about the people I’ve become close with. My supervisor, Josue, is undoubtedly one of the most positive individuals I’ve ever met, and his kind personality lifted my spirits on days when I wasn’t feeling 100% myself. The work we did at Mariposas Sin Fronteras was always saddening, but also gave me the motivation to keep going. Panchita, my home stay mom, always kept me laughing and full of food, even on long work days. Her role as a promotora for Derechos Humanos was absolutely amazing, and I was lucky enough to sit in on a meeting with Las Promotoras and learn more about the work that they do. All of the wonderful folks at Casa Mariposa, who are some of the bravest and most valiant people I’ve ever met. These folks, those who’ve been through so much but still move forward. They inspire me and give me hope for the future. Seguir adelante, siempre.

I think the one thing I’ve taken from this experience is that no one knows more about the experiences of immigrants than immigrants themselves. You can study, write, and go to workshops all you want, but you will never understand the immigrant experience. Because of this, it makes more than enough sense to have efforts and organizations led by those who are directly affected by different court rulings, decisions, etc. Not to say that allies or even accomplices don’t have the capacity to fight for immigrant rights; I just mean that these efforts should solely focus on immigrants, and the allies/accomplices should always be by their side, never in front. It should be about uplifting marginalized voices, not speaking for them. That is true solidarity.

All I know is that this work is never over. Unfortunately, in the current political climate we live in, it has become increasingly scarier to be an immigrant in the U.S. The anti-immigrant sentiment in this country is real and quite apparent, in our institutions and throughout the general population. It’s easier to hate things that you don’t understand, especially when the conservative media, etc. tells you that this particular population is taking your jobs and thus threatening your livelihood. But after listening to the stories of these folks, I find it very hard to believe that persons on the other side would not be moved. At least, I hope they would be.