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My First True Story

I hope the Becoming Visible Campaign can humanize immigration policy by telling true, human stories. But for the past couple of weeks I’ve had a hard time finding those stories. I teach at a private college and live in a middle class neighborhood in Mobile, and I don’t see too many Hispanics. But today I found this wonderfully compelling story in a CNN news report by Gustavo Valdes. Gabriella Velazquez is a mom taking her kids out of school and packing up everything. It’s happening all over Alabama right now. Here’s a condensed version of the story, shifted to the first person for even more empathy:

I am Gabriella. Tonight I’m packing to leave Alabama. I crossed over into the U.S. with nothing but my clothes, and I’m going back the same way. You never know what life will bring. When we left our family in Mexico, they didn’t know what would happen to us. But my husband Marco became a carpet installer and I took jobs in restaurants, hotels and grocery stores. I was not planning on having kids, but here they are. I was not planning to sell everything to move back to Mexico either, but now I am. This law gives me no choice. My family is everything. I’ll make a final meal for my family tonight and get on a bus with my kids. My son asks, “Why do we have to go, why am I not going to school anymore?” His teacher is black, and she cried when I told her we are leaving. She told me about the struggles her people had in this same state. This law allows police to take me away from my children anytime, to disappear me, to make me invisible. So I will disappear before they do it for me. Isn’t that what they want anyway?

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About Todd Duren

I'm a graphic designer, artist, and educator in Mobile, AL.

9 responses to “My First True Story

  1. Ted Arroyo ⋅

    Gabriella speaks for many, many hard working immigrants who are finding Alabama no sweet home. When and how are we going to address our state’s long tradition of xenophobia and racism?

    • Todd Duren ⋅

      Thanks for the comment, Ted. I hope we can achieve some immigration reform that will actually help people, and not just score political points.

  2. It is about the rule of law.When are you people going to quit crying racism.Illegal is illegal. period.

    • Todd Duren ⋅

      Thanks for the comment Larry. Lots of immoral laws have been enforced in Alabama. Here’s one: “No person or corporation shall require any white female nurse to nurse in wards or rooms in hospitals, either public or private, in which negro men are placed.” HB 56 criminalizes immigration status for the first time in Alabama, and its (intentionally?) vague standard of enforcement takes us back to Jim Crow days. This “rule of law” logic breaks down when a law is immoral, and many of us believe this one is.

  3. Niklas

    The “law is the law” or “illegal is illegal” works well with monkeys who have limited reasoning skills. But for human beings with higher level reasoning ability that is not a good or satisfactory response. Laws are created by people and do not come from heaven; therefore, they should be questioned and challenged from time to time.

  4. Mariana ⋅

    Hola yo tengo,mi historia que tal vez te interesa,yo fui victima de violencia domestica,despues de salir de ella,me estaba levantando con mis dos hijas,cuando paso el tornado en tuscaloosa y perdimos completamente todo,ahora que otra vez estamos levantandonos,ponen esta ley que nos tenemos que ir y empezar nuevamente.

    • Todd Duren ⋅

      Thanks for my first Spanish comment, Mariana. Since I don’t speak Spanish, I’ve run it though Google Translate. I’m sure this is an imperfect translation: “Hello I have, my story might interest you, I was a victim of domestic violence, after leaving her, I was raising my two daughters when the tornado in tuscaloosa step and completely lost now that are rising up again , put this law we have to go and start again.”

      • Todd Duren ⋅

        Thanks for your comment, Mariana. I have translated your words using the Internet. Now that you have suffered domestic violence, a tornado, and this inhumane law, you must feel like things are very bad for you. I will keep your story in my heart and hope for all the best for you and your children.

        I’ll Google Translate this to Spanish…

        Gracias por tu comentario, Mariana. He traducido sus palabras a través de Internet. Ahora que han sufrido violencia doméstica, un tornado, y esta ley inhumana, debe sentir que las cosas son muy malas para usted. Voy a seguir tu historia en mi corazón y esperanza para todos lo mejor para usted y sus hijos.

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