Voices in Focus: Advice for Undocumented Immigrants

Today we found some great stories from the ethnic and community press, including an advice column for undocumented immigrants; a new report on promoting good jobs and good food for people of color; on op-ed on the difference between “undocumented” and “illegal”; and a profile of an “American Idol” finalist.

* When New York Magazine recently excerpted an advice column for undocumented immigrants written by Angy Rivera, we recognized the 21-year-old college student’s name — back in May, we linked to a Colorlines piece where Rivera interviewed her mother. Rivera’s advice regularly appears on the New York State Youth Leadership Council website, and those familiar with her column know that Rivera is wise far beyond her years.

To a correspondent unsure about divulging her undocumented status to a former boyfriend, for example, she wrote:

If you decide to spend the rest of your days with this person, then I do suggest telling him you are undocumented. He may or may not love you the same after finding out, [but] this chance at love … is something we all take, undocumented or not.

Recently, activists in the immigrant community have “outed” themselves as undocumented, including a former Washington Post reporter, Jose Antonio Vargas. Here Rivera explains her own reasoning on why she made her status public:

Not everyone can be open about being undocumented. Not everyone can embrace it, and I totally understand why. Many times we come out not for ourselves but for others. We hope to inspire our parents, for example, who are tied down by fear.

* Speaking of Colorlines: the site’s publisher, The Applied Research Center, recently released a new report on potential strategies to unite and promote the movements for better quality jobs for people of color and for locally-grown, healthy food.

What could happen, we wondered, if the people who work to ensure good eating and those who fight for labor rights were to strategize together and move projects that addressed both issues simultaneously? Such collaborative thinking would force us to deal with the systems that cause health problems like obesity and workplace problems. Poverty is both a factor and an outcome in both issues, and poverty, as we know, is deeply raced and gendered.

The report goes on to identify areas that might be most viable.

We found five opportunities for linking the two movements. They involve tying restaurant liquor licenses to labor reviews; supporting subsidies for small and medium-sized manufacturers of ethnic cuisines; creating food purchasing agreements with local and state governments; subsidizing retailers in poor communities and expanding the use of Community Benefits Agreements in public subsidies to advance food security as well as labor rights. To pursue any of these to scale, the fields have to increase their ability to coalesce, broaden their analysis and build alternative systems even while they challenge the existing ones.

* With discussions of immigration and immigrants’ status front and center in politics lately, New American Media featured an op-ed on the barbs and complexities carried by the terms such as “illegal”  or even “undocumented.

My parents gained legal residency through my U.S. citizen grandmother but I was aged-out of the process and put in removal proceedings. I have a pending green card application and a pending cancellation of removal case in immigration court. While both applications are pending, I get to have work authorization, through which I have a driver’s license, state identification and a host of other privileges. I’m also eligible for deferred action. It is, hence, legally incorrect to call me an illegal immigrant (or even an undocumented immigrant), though many have resorted to doing so while telling me to get out of their country. I’m in legal limbo but I’m certainly not in the country illegally at this point.

Prerna Lal is a third-year law student at The George Washington University Law School. (Via New American Media)

The author, law student Prerna Lal, argues that immigrants and their advocates should take control of the language used to describe their situation.

By questioning the use of the i-word, I am not playing with words. I’m simply pointing out that by using these words, we are “playing with” people. Right-wing extremists and those in power have shaped our discourse, and in order to move past misguided perceptions, we need to reshape the dialogue on immigration and set some facts right… When we stop using the broad brush of illegal, and even undocumented, to define immigrants and non-immigrants, we open the door to actually seeing them as individuals with complex stories.

* And lastly, a profile in KoreAm Journal traces “American Idol” finalist Heejun Han’s early attempts at making it in Korea’s “K-pop” scene.

Born in South Korea before moving to Flushing, New York, at age 12, Han decided to return to Korea to pursue a singing career. The then-19-year-old thought he could break into the music industry more easily there, but after two years, he returned home empty-handed and found himself in a deep depression.

Along with detailing Han’s strategy while he was on American Idol,” the article looks forward to Han’s future plans and upcoming album.

More than three months after being voted off idol, Han is rehearsing for the upcoming idol summer tour, which will begin this month. He’s juggling still-confidential offers from American television shows, and he will start writing and recording his solo album, which will first be released in Korea.

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