Friday, March 26, 2010

The Burger King employee who saw Mary Jane.

My hands began to sweat profusely. I wasn't sure if standing up was a good idea. There we were, a bus full of immigrants, some of us undocumented, coming back from a successful rally and march in Capitol Hill, wondering why St. Louis, Mo. cops had stopped our bus. 

We'd been back on the road to California for a day and a half. All of us tired and confused. A second patrol car pulled up next to the bus and we began to panic. The kids in the front leaned against the windows to get a better look. 

I will not forget the faces of these cops. What could have possibly gone through their minds as their eyes scanned a bus full of sleepy brown faces? Were they with us or against us? 

After being interrogated by the cops for about twenty minutes, the bus drivers got back on the bus and asked everyone to calm down. The youngest of the two took a deep breath and informed us that an employee from a Mt. Vernon, Ill. Burger King we'd stopped for breakfast called the cops on us. The employee had allegedly seen one of our bus riders smoke marijuana. 

"It's a federal offense to transport marijuana across state lines," the bus driver informed us. Adding that if found out that we indeed had somebody carrying marijuana, we could all get arrested. 

Arrested. The word just kept lingering in my head like a bad migraine. Was this really happening? Was this the end of a historic ride across the country in the name of comprehensive immigration reform? 

We all began to look at each other suspiciously. Who would jeopardize our ride like that? Who in the right mind would put undocumented children at such risk? The answer was easy of course: None of us. 

We'd been together for nearly a week. We'd shared our stories and food recipes. We'd kept each other entertained with songs and bad jokes. We'd put up with loud snorts through California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania all the way to Washington, D.C.  We'd seen each other cry and scream outside Captiol Hill when President Barack Obama pledged to create a bipartisan consensus on the issue this year via a giant screen. We'd argued, laughed and farted in front of each other. In other words, we'd become a family.

How was it then that something like this was beginning to separate us. Divide and conquer, that's what they call it que no? But our faith and love for each other was much greater than any possible treat surrounding our bus. Men and women quickly reached for their rosaries and began to pray. 

I leaned against my window and fought the impending flow of tears. Crying, it seemed, would be a sign of weakness. Something that said, you've won. I've surrendered. I saw the patrols cars drive away and plugged my iPod headphones into my ears. I said nothing else and just fell asleep. 

*These are pictures I took with my laptop moments before the St. Louis, Mo. incident:

Monday, March 22, 2010

The White House, Rev. Jesse Jackson and me.

There he was. Staring right at me. Like one of those paintings that no matter how further and further you move away from them, they just won't stop stalking you. The one and only Rev. Jesse Jackson was looking right at me.

Out of seemingly nothing, Rev. Jackson surprised the huge crowd that gathered Sunday morning in front of the White House. 

"This land was made for you and me," Rev. Jackson screamed to the crowd. 

Rev. Jackson's presence became almost symbolic of the black and brown unity of the day. His words took us back to the days when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders walked the same ground demanding the same rights for African Americans.

Young Black and Latino kids walked the grounds surrounding the White House. All of us working together to pass a comprehensive immigration reform. All of us united by the pain of being treated systematically differently because of our skin color or a lack of documentation.

"March on, fight on," Rev. Jackson said. "Keep hope alive!"

*I got very sick after the march. Since we'll be leaving today after meeting with Congress peeps today, I won't be able to update the blog while on the road back to California. But comeback and check it after I get back to California on Wednesday. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Contributing to the economy one state at a time.

There have been various stops throughout the whole trip. Most of them were necessary stops. The small stall we have for a restroom on our bus can only take so much. 

As the young and old immigration activists pour out of our bus to the many Flying J's across the country, they diligently count their cash and fuel themselves with junk food and water.

Monster Energy Drinks, Vitamin Waters, Ruffles, Trident Gums and Coca-Colas have kept us awake through snow and rain. 

And they say immigrants don't contribute to the economy....

The girl who loves Selena Gomez.

Meet the coolest 11-year old girl ever. She is not your typical fifth grader. She's put at least one smile even in the grouchiest rider. 

If you're sitting by yourself in the bus, Rebeca will run up next to you and tell you how much she loves Selena Gomez but hates girly stuff. 

She doesn't like to tell her friends that she's an undocumented immigrant. She's scared they might make fun of her, yet she has no problem standing up in front of a Kansas City, MO. crowd to tell them her story. A story that involves a mother who lost her baby sister while working with very strong chemicals in her house-cleaning job. 

When we left Cleveland, OH., she sat next to me on and told me how much she loved my testimony. She told me I should write books. I told her that me and her are on the same struggle. She gave me a comforting smile and began to go through my sketch pad. 

Notes from a bus.....

Salt Lake City, Utah

March 18, 2010

Third stop of the Pilgrimage for Reform: Change Takes Faith and Action, and I'm barely getting the energies to take out the laptop and do some actual typing. The cold AC in the bus brought back my flu, but the people's energies are keeping me up. They're keeping us all up. Though I haven't been doing much typing, I've been taking notes. 

I don't know if it's the snow-top mountains or the fact that we were fed an amazing breakfast here in Salt Lake City, but I have the sudden urge to type. I'm used to being the one who is going up to podiums and speaking out. But this time around, it's the younger generation of undocumented students who are doing the talking. These young students have grabbed my heart and left their beautiful marks all over. They're energetic and ready to speak out. They're not holding back. They're telling the stories that we've been told to keep quiet.


There's the young girl who is a high school senior and who will not take "no you can't" for an answer. The most articulate 12 year old boy I've met, whose dad let him take this trip for his future. A younger girl who is tired of not being able to go places out of fear that she might get deported. 

"They might as well pass immigration reform because we're not stopping," the high school senior said during her Salt Lake City testimony. She's right. We're not stopping. We're crossing the country in the name of immigration reform because we're tired. We're tired of having to wait around to be heard. Keeping all these emotions quiet for fear of immigration policy. Is just not fair.

 I see myself in all these kids. All of our lives we've been told to stay in school and be the best we can be. We have. We've done the homework. The extra credit. The extra curriculum activities. Everything in order to have the grades to go to college. 

In my case, I've done the college years. I've done the all-nighters at the library. I've learned so much, yet, like those children, I feel stuck. I can't seem to move on with my life because of a broken immigration system. I'm graduating this Spring and I'm freaking out. I have no idea what's next in my life......