The CWS Blog

Undocumented and Unafraid

2012 John Backer Award recipient Myrna Orozco
Myrna Orozco receives the 2012 CWS John Backer Award from CWS President and CEO John L. McCullough. Photo: Chris Herlinger/CWS

As we celebrate International Youth Day, we stand with Myrna Orozco -- a brave and fearless undocumented youth and good friend of CWS. Orozco is a recipient of the 2012 CWS John Backer Award and is National Field Director for the United We Dream Network, based in Kansas City, Mo.

Question: What is your immigrant story?

I am originally from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.  I came to the United States when I was four years old, in December 1994.  Now I live near Kansas City, Mo.  I found out I was undocumented when I was about 16 years old.  I was trying to look at my options for higher education and found out that Missouri bars undocumented youth from attending public universities.

I decided to be a voice, to get involved, and to start working for the passage of what is known as the DREAM Act, legislation that would allow me to go to college and become a permanent resident of the United States.  I started that first because of me, then because of the stories of thousands of other DREAMers.

Q: You’re undocumented.  Why shouldn’t the United States send you back where you were born?

I don’t think the United States should send me back to a place I don’t know, that I have no allegiance to.  It’s a moral issue, but also a family issue.  I am the only undocumented person in my family.  My grandparents are citizens of the United States, and my aunts and uncles are either citizens or permanent residents.  Why should you separate a citizen parent from her child, a citizen child from his sister, just because of a law that is unjust and a system that is broken?  Why should you have to say ‘bye to your daughter, your sister, your mom, your friend, and why should I have to pledge allegiance to another flag that isn’t what I would consider my own?

Q: Now you are working for the United We Dream Network.  Tell us about it.

We are a national organization, primarily composed of undocumented youth and immigrant youth.  We work in 28 states with 47 affiliates.  Above all, we are giving hope to undocumented young people that they are not alone and can be what they want to be.

We do a lot of advocacy and policy work around issues facing our community, including the need for the DREAM Act.  DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), announced this summer, is better than nothing but it must be renewed every two years and the threat of deportation still lingers.  The DREAM Act is still necessary to ensure that young immigrants are able to become contributing residents of the country we call home and eventually be fully part of America as America is part of us.

Q: What support do you want from the U.S.-born?

I want you to become a safe space for people like me to come out, to share our stories.  Let the undocumented person know you are a person they can trust and confide in.  It could be your next door neighbor, or the child your child goes school with.  People should be able to share their humanity and not hide a piece of their reality.  Also, educate yourself about U.S. immigration policy and support legislation like the DREAM Act when it comes up.  But most important become a safe space.”

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