June 28, 2014

I am back in North Carolina this week, getting ready for my main research trip to California’s Central Valley, where I will speak to women and men who have lived and worked as undocumented immigrants in the United States. I just received some feedback regarding my Institutional Review Board protocol, and I have submitted a revised request. At the moment, that is the only obstacle, and one that should resolve itself in the next few days.

What I had actually expected to be a bigger problem was finding subjects willing to speak with me about their lives as undocumented immigrants. Given our current climate of xenophobia, I would not blame people for refusing to talk about their immigration status, current or former. But I have already located about ten people who want to tell me their stories, all in the Central Valley.

utahIt seems people are tired of living, as is now commonly said, “in the shadows.” It is no wonder that undocumented men and women, young DREAMers, and their allies routinely demonstrate for fair treatment and legalization by the thousands across the country: from California and Arizona to Utah and Georgia.

The growing awareness about undocumented life is now igniting a real conversation, something that for a long time was entirely missing. In the past, people lived in fear, often internalizing their status and (understandably) maintaining a low-key presence. Now, people of conscience are beginning to recognize the insanity of calling human beings “illegal” and to understand that so many “illegals” are as American as themselves, differentiated only by a largely arbitrary designation. Something has clearly changed, and though things look anything but easy for immigrants’ rights activists, the conversation, if not necessarily policy, is moving in the right direction.

In the next few weeks, I hope to figure out how this change came about, and how younger generations have courageously stepped up pressure and engaged in a massive human rights campaign to humanize an issue that is so often seen in black and white and discussed in cold terms rather than with a sense of empathetic understanding.

Eladio Bobadilla