“I will not be used as a symbol of fear”
On January 28, 2008, Flor Crisóstomo raised her protest against the unjust treatment of immigrants to a new level. She told a room packed with assembled reporters that she would defy her deportation order and take sanctuary in the same church that opened its doors last year to Elivra Arellano.
These are the words she wanted the world to hear…
Two years ago I was arrested in a raid that destroyed the lives of hundreds of IFCO workers and their families. The raid was part of the campaign of “attrition” through “enforcement only” that is the current wrong-headed policy of this government.
I have exhausted all my legal appeals and I have been ordered out of the country today. I am expected to be one of the flashing yellow warning lights that tells the 12 million undocumented to leave their families and “self-deport.”
I am not leaving. I have asked and been granted sanctuary in my church. I am not defying the laws of this country and I am not hiding. I am taking a stand of civil disobedience to Make America See what they are doing. I hope that adding my grain of sand to the struggle will help to get the U.S. Congress to act to fix a broken law and an inhuman system of undocumented labor.
I will not be used as symbol of fear. Instead, I will continue to add my light to others to make America See what they are doing to 12 million human beings and their families.
I hate the system of undocumented labor. It has separated me from my children for seven years. I believe with all my heart that Mexico and the United States together must end this system.
But the current policy of enforcement-only is not ending the system and that is what I want America to see.
I came here seven years ago, following my two brothers, because NAFTA made it impossible to feed my children in my home town in the state of Guerrero. That situation has only gotten worse and the Mexican Congress predicts that with the final reduction of the tariffs on corn, beans, sugar and powdered milk under NAFTA, as many as a million more Mexican out of work farmers will try to make the deadly and dangerous crossing to find work in the United States.
My brother now has family in the United States with U.S. citizen children. He will not leave his children and there are millions like him. Others, with children and families in Mexico, will not go back because the policies of NAFTA make it impossible for them to find work there.
The raids and deportations make them live in fear. The no match letters force them into worse and worse jobs. But, like me, they must send money back to feed their families and a poor job is better than no job.
That is why the current policy will not end the system of undocumented labor: we cannot go home to hungry eyes and we cannot leave our families here.
The combination of NAFTA and Enforcement-Only is not aimed at ending the system of undocumented labor. It is aimed at making it worse for us. It is aimed at our destruction.
I have hope that America will see what they are doing and come together with the Mexican Government to renegotiate NAFTA and other financial agreements that have destroyed the economy and way of life of our people in Mexico.
Only through this renegotiation of NAFTA and the legalization of employment can the borders be made safe and secure.
I know that by taking this action there is little chance that I will ever achieve legal status to stay in this country. I may face time in prison.
But when I do return to my children, I will not return, as so many have, empty handed and unable to provide for them. I will be able to give them the only thing that I can pass on to them: My dignity.
I am fighting for those who have families here and for those who are separated from their families in Mexico.
I am fighting against a cruel and inhuman system of undocumented labor whose human face is the separation of families and the misery of children.
I am one of the indigenous people to whom God first gave this land. We have survived genocide and slavery, forced assimilation and disease.
We will survive this monster that the powerful would place on our necks because we will not bow down to it.
We will stand with dignity as my brothers and sisters in the north stood at Wounded Knee, until God makes the people see that by destroying us they are destroying their own souls.
Let us build together a movement that will Make America See and make the Congress act.
Let us do it without hatred and without violence. Let us do it together.
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This post is also available in: Spanish