How To Help Young Immigrants In Addition to Prayer & Hope

Due to the current administration’s attitude toward immigrants and the fact that I’m an intern for an immigration reform organization, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to be vocal about immigration.

I started Claudia Documented in 2012.

Immigration- TPS - DACA

A postcard to my representative

I was seventeen years old and was halfway through my first year of college. I had lived in a kind of ignorant and blissful bubble. That year, I learned the full extent of holding a work permit. I was speaking with a financial aid counselor trying to explain Temporary Protected Status, the program that grants me a work permit.

I knew my document wasn’t called a visa or a green card. That’s how far my understanding went.

The financial aid counselor is the one that broke things down for me and pretty much broke my world.

I had known months into my first year of college that the school, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, was too expensive and that my merit scholarship wasn’t enough. As a first generation student, I also didn’t understand how tuition piled up. I imagined my mother and I, if I continued with my job and applied to scholarships, would be able to manage another year at the school.

In 2012, I learned why paying for school was getting so tough. Immigrants aren’t allowed financial aid and they’re ineligible for many scholarships. With that eye-opening moment, I began to see limits in my world, limits I didn’t know existed for me. It meant that I would not be able to wear those “I voted” stickers, yet alone, vote in elections. I’ve missed two presidential elections since turning 18. For a few years, I was also not able to have access to healthcare. Traveling abroad, low-income and immigrant, was also off my list.

It’s been over five years since that moment, and I haven’t been able to change my legal status.

When I see comments on Facebook criticizing “young and smart” Dreamers for not being smart enough to fix their status, it enrages and disappoints me. There’s no pathway to permanent residency for DACA recipients or TPS recipients.

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Postcards to our representatives, Culmore Junior Youth

The average age of a TPS holder is 43 years old. I’ve had TPS for so long, I didn’t think it made sense to change my “status” or more appropriate, “program,” to another uncertain program, DACA. Yet, I understand too well the struggles and fears of these young immigrants. If any of these young immigrants have been able to adjust their status it’s through complicated means:

  • U-visas, which means you have been the victim of abuse or a crime,
  • Employee-sponsored visa, which comes with the strain of offering product or ideas no other employee can, or
  • Marriage, which is a commitment that should be out of love, not out of fear

What can you do right now to help young immigrants?

  1. Get Informed – ask questions, follow the news, and connect with immigrant organizations
  2. Spread the Word – tell a friend, tell family, don’t stay quiet
  3. Meet the Demands – attend a protest, attend a rally, call and write congress
  4. Donate – these organizations run on volunteer power: National TPS Alliance, United We Dream, & NAKASEC
Tim Kaine at Speak Out for Dreamers

Introducing Tim Kaine at storytelling event, 12/04/2017, Photo: Alida Garcia

The hardest part on this list is meeting the demands. We all have busy schedules. It’s easy to hope. We do it all the time. Prayer, too, though meaningful, does not actively change the situation. I’ve been guilty of not meeting the demands, even though I’m personally affected. If meeting the demands is hard for you, and you are trying, I’m not going to lie. You and I are in a rough position, but the last thing we want is not to try.

If you, are bold and fearless, and meet the demands at every turn, continue. We need you.

What can you right now as you wrap up reading this article? If you haven’t, find your representative today. Next, share this article. If I have come away with one good thing about being an immigrant is that I understand the political system more and more every day.

If a businessman made it to the White House, what’s not to say you, dearest reader, can make it to the White House? Help an immigrant today and help the future.

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Claudia Rojas is poeta. She’s also a TPS (Temporary Protected Status) holder.TPS protects individuals fleeing natural disaster and war on a temporary basis. The program has been extended for many years; no permanent solution has ever been presented. Currently, the countries of Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan have lost their TPS designation. El Salvador, Claudia’s country of origin, has 200,000 TPS holders whose lives are at risk should Congress or America fail us. Call your member of Congress today through the FWD.us tool or find your representative’s info online. We cannot delay.

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1,000 miles: step 85

In  my last update, I expressed several frustrations with being a 20-something year old. Those frustrations are still relevant, but there’s been a few changes and experiences since. Read on to find out.

Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat

The online poetry retreat, normally a $279 experience, was offered to me through a scholarship. Just in time before the retreat started, I received a journal and book from Two Sylvias Press and was invited to a Facebook group. The retreat began early in October. For the following four weeks, I received writing prompts and motivational quotes in my inbox. I managed to keep up with the prompts. It was a productive season, which ended with my submitting two poems to the editors for critique.

New & Old Experiences

Sunset - blue -sky

Photo I took on a busy day, 11/21

In October, I helped judge a speech competition that was held at George Mason University. I judged something.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, Fall for the Book happens in October. Where were you? I attended my third Fall for the Book Festival because it’s tradition.

I also attended my first orchestra performance at the Kennedy Center and recommended the experience in my Simple Gems in the City of Washington, DC post. It’s a great chance to wear that fancy attire tucked in our closets.

Reading Poetry in Public Spaces

On October 21, I read a poem for a holy day, the bicentennial celebration of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith. I made a recording of the poem “How To Live” for YouTube. Then, at a Sterling protest on November 21, I read two poems about being an immigrant. This was in front of Representative Barbara Comstock’s office.

Though these experiences aren’t the same as open mics, I find them thrilling. What’s a poem if not breathed into the public? If you are interested in my poetry, The Bookends Review published one of my forms poem, a sestina. Read the poem now.

Public Resistance for Immigration Reform

As I said to a crowd of protesters in Sterling, I feel most comfortable with poetry. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve forced myself into protests. I was even interviewed for a ThinkProgress article and provided Mason Dreamers with input about the TPS situation. Public resistance means an active engagement with my community; it makes me feel empowered. Many people still don’t know about TPS. Educating people online is difficult–there are short attention spans and complicated lives.

DC protest TPS

I help hold that banner shortly after taking this picture on 10/23 #SaveTPS

If you follow me through Twitter or Instagram, you’ll find that these days, immigration doesn’t leave my mind. I have started a countdown for the days left until the Department of Homeland Security makes a decision about El Salvador’s TPS designation. By chance, this March 2018 deadline also marks the point when DACA (Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals) ends for thousands of youth. Times are rough.

I’m A Policy Intern

This month, I started an internship as policy intern with FWD.us. It was an unexpected turn of events, but it’s the space I need to be in right now. It’s a space that makes sense with the issues that make my heart heavy.

FWD.us organized a fly-in for about 100 DACAmented youth and businesses who employ these youth, so they could meet with members of Congress. I was part of that effort!

Being me at this moment / brown/ immigrant / woman isn’t easy, but I’m taking step after step anyway.

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Claudia Rojas is poeta. She’s also a TPS (Temporary Protected Status) holder. TPS protects individuals fleeing natural disaster and war on a temporary basis. The program has been extended for many years; no permanent solution has ever been presented. Currently, the countries of Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan have lost their TPS designation. El Salvador, Claudia’s country of origin, has 200,000 TPS holders whose lives are at risk should Congress or America fail us. Call your member of Congress today through the FWD.us tool or find your representative’s info online. We cannot delay.

Top 13 Scary Moments: Claudiapoet’s Edition

In the spirit of Halloween, I want to share some moments that have scared me in different degrees, but scared me for sure. Are they all spooky? You have to read on and find out! Go on, see whether any make you scream or scram.

Some of these moments are small fears–you may even say silly. Other moments have roots I cannot begin to tell you.

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13. The Storm and Thunder 

The way the trees toss and turn outside my window scare me. Thunder has such a loud boom that I find hard to ignore. My least favorite time out in the roads is during the slightest clap of thunder.

12. Alarms 

Any sudden or new beeping sound to me makes me jump a little. Alarms, fire alarms or sirens, make me uneasy. I’m just not a big fan of loud noises.

11. Being Late 

Whether it’s a job, a class, or an event, I like showing up when I say I’ll be there. I’m habitually on time to things. I leave up to half an hour to an hour early when I’m going somewhere new. If I’m late somewhere, I imagine people looking at the clock and frowning or scowling. All this drama build ups in my head.

10. Rejection Letters

Submitting poems to journals and magazines is easy. Hearing back from them is not; it’s scary because sometimes it doesn’t happen. Whenever I hear back from a submission, if the subject line or opening line lacks a “congratulations,” my heart sinks.

9. Dialing Strangers, Especially Representatives 

The act itself is not scary, but there’s still times where I have to pep talk myself into making a call, or when I have to write out my message before I can speak it. Maybe the digital age has spoiled me. Maybe it’s one of the downers of being an introvert. Maybe it’s being in a woman of color body. 

I wrote a poem about one of these scary calls. It was to ask my congressman about Syria and its raped women. I stifled tears throughout the whole ordeal, which was particularly hard as the staffer explained there wasn’t anything to be done. 

If you, reader, don’t have this fear, I encourage you to make a call to support and demand action for the Dream Act–it’s a quick call, actually. This matters to me not because I am a DACA recipient, but because I know their pains and fears.

8. Encounters with Many-legged Insects 

Enough said. I don’t want them near. Yes, I know caterpillars grow up to be butterflies. 

7. Lock-downs with Middle Schoolers

When I worked in a middle school classroom as a tutor, there would be times when a crime had happened near enough the school to put the school on lockdown. This often meant that the classroom had to go quiet, which isn’t easy in a roomful of squirmy bodies. The tension of the moment was something similar to that Halloween movie where you’re screaming at the girl, “don’t go in there!”

The children made it, but I know that some days, some school does lose a child–to gun violence or to bullying.

6. Transferring to a 4 Year College 

It was actually the commute that terrified me. And then the financial expenses. I figured George Mason University would be my last stop in my journey to earn a college degree. I figured I wouldn’t graduate… but I did in May 2017.

5. Car Rides with Speedy Drivers 

Will we survive? Is there a police behind us? Hey, are you seeing that stop sign? Slow down. I want to live.

4. Post-Election Day 2016

I had gone to bed late, with each hour, hoping the votes coming in would change direction. I couldn’t believe that a man with recorded evidence of gross “locker talk” was winning the election. I was scared of the future. I was scared for the future.

At the time, I was a classroom tutor, and I couldn’t imagine going into work. The students had spent months commenting on the racist remarks of the candidate-now-turned-president. It was a horror story.

I didn’t have work that day. I had school, which was just as bad because in most classrooms, I’m the Hispanic or the Latina. Post-Election Day I was the.crying. Latina. 

3. Car Accident, February 2017

I learned that even cautious drivers like myself can’t avoid car accidents. I was hit head-on by a driver who miscalculated or was plain reckless when she made a left turn, wanting to enter the road in the opposing direction of traffic.

The scary part was that I didn’t see her car; I felt the car slam against my car before seeing anything or anybody. The other scary part was the quiet in the car. In TV images of car crashes, there’s always screaming. I turned around and my mother, who was my passenger that day, wasn’t screaming–but she was alive.

2. My Mother Takes a Trip to El Salvador

In the summer of 2015, my mother made an emergency trip to El Salvador. TPS beneficiaries have to file an advance parole application to make visits outside the U.S. This was my mother’s first trip. We both had fears that something would go wrong, that she wouldn’t be allowed back into the U.S. For the few days she was away, I worried about her return trip. At that time, I was a full-grown 20 year old woman going on to 21 years, and all I kept thinking was Come home, mamí.

And she did! It only took some procedural hours of questioning at the airport.

1. The Right Now 

In case you don’t know, TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for Nicaragua and Honduras is set to expire January 2018. For El Salvador, that’s March 2018. Homeland Security is due to make a decision about the future of Central Americans and Haitians into November, and November starts tomorrow.

Simple Gems in the City of Washington, DC

Living in Northern Virginia, I have a great view of the city. Washington, DC is a metro ride or car ride away. There are no-effort and wallet-free options for the city, some hidden and some in plain sight. Here are some day trip ideas for the next time you head to the nation’s capital.

City Views

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Adams Morgan shops

A productive stroll in the city involves more than dining or shopping. It means going into a bookstore, sitting at a bench when you manage to find one, and being open to discovery.

Museums are a must, and there are so many to choose that you may be missing on some gems like the National Building Museum or the colorburst, the Blind Rhino. You can spend hours in one museum alone. Some really great sights, murals and sculptures, you will find find right in front of your nose. Be on the lookout.

Murals

You’ve seen these on social media posts, especially Instagram. Why not see them yourself? Some neighborhoods to try are U St, Adams Morgan, and NoMa, which have blocks full of murals and are metro accessible. It’s easy to miss a mural at night, so daylight is the way to go.

DC Mural

U St mural at dusk

In daylight, some murals you can’t miss–they’ll take up an entire wall as you pass the sidewalk and other artwork will be hiding down alleys. Stay alert.

You’ll notice artists using the wall medium to their advantage: to wow and to celebrate the city. Recent additions are part of MuralsDC Project started in 2007, an effort to make art of graffiti around the city.

While you will stumble upon murals unintentionally, here is a map of DC murals.

Sculptures

Many tourists know to take pictures of the sculpture of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. These are great but DC has much more to offer.

Find PandaMania sculptures throughout DC! The sculptures are a long past 2004 art project with many sculptures still in perfect condition, all scattered around DC and Northern Virginia.

Find a sculpture of Albert Einstein on 2100 Constitution Ave NW or sitting and pensive George Mason in East Potomac Park or the Bartholdi fountain inside the Botanic Gardens, named after the artist who also happens to be the artist behind the Statue of Liberty.

Interested in other overlooked sculptures? There’s more, all small surprises around the city.

Cozy spaces

Terrace View

John F. Kennedy terrace view

Visit the John F. Kennedy Center. Watch no-ticket-needed music and dance performances at the Millennium Stage. Upcoming events include Rocky Horror dance lessons from the Joy of Motion Dance Center on Halloween and a Thanksgiving Day Swing Dance Party on November 23. While there, head to the Tour Desk for a free tour. Handy fact: there’s also a free shuttle that departs from Foggy Bottom.

Attend a poetry event hosted by Split This Rock. Stop by on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month for a no-cost writing workshopStop by monthly poetry open mics: the next one in DC is on November 19 and in Virginia on November 12. Split This Rock hosts open mics on the regular with $5 tickets. Stay updated via Split This Rock’s Facebook page.

In the mood to treat yourself? CityCenter, with over 30 shops, is the place for you. At the plaza, sit for awhile and enjoy the view. Notice the art installations change by the season: beach balls in the summer, now leaves hang from Palmer Alley. The CityCenter plaza is a family-friendly location.

Choose these city delights for a low-cost and relaxing day, but know there’s still more to discover. 

 

 

Questions? Comments? Let me know. Find me on Instagram, @Claudiapoet.

Claudia Poet’s Ideas for Random Acts of Poetry

October is a fairly decent month: the calm before the winter freeze, the color before the bare landscape. It is host to Northern Virginia’s Fall for the Book literary festival and to Random Acts of Poetry Day.

Random Acts of Poetry (RAP) falls on October 4 this year.

Legend has it that RAP Day arose in the early 80s, following a Canadian writer’s scribbles on a restaurant mat. That writer was Anne Herbert.  In the U.S., the writer Dylan Barmmer may have woken up Americans from their slumber. Whatever the origins, RAP Day is a holiday we have all much been waiting to discover.

On this day, the key thing is to commit to surprise people with poetry. (Read a beginner’s guide to poetry here.)

RAP-French-Pin-Poetry.pngFollowing are unexpected spots and ways to find a poem:

1. Library Book
Have you ever found an abandoned bookmark in a book and felt a little wave of discovery? Make that happen for someone else. Write a line from a poem on a sticky note or bookmark, pick a page in a library book, and be done.

Estimated Discovery Point: unknown, it could take years for the book to be opened
TIP: pick a New Arrivals/Hot Pick book for a faster discovery rate

2. Bathroom Stall
Leave a poem on a bathroom stall, where a stranger won’t have much of a choice but to read it! Be bold, make it a long poem.

Estimated Discovery Point: within hours.
TIP: Print out or write on colorful paper.

3. Bus or Metro Newspaper
Write fortune-cookie size poems and leave them inside newspapers. Imagine the surprise on strangers’ faces when they realize the day’s news has a poem.

Estimated Discovery Point: within hours.
TIP: use tape so that the poem doesn’t get lost.

4. Hashtag Poem
Ever wonder if people are reading your hashtags? Chances are they at least sneaking a glance. Surprise them with #onelonghashtagpoem.

Estimated Discovery Point: within minutes of post.
TIP: choose a mundane photo. Use #Raopoetryday or #RAPDay2017

5. Balloon
Write “POETRY” in big letters on a balloon, leaving room for a short poem. Release it into the air. Repeat.

Estimated Discovery Point: unlikely.
TIP: take a picture. Throw a party.

Want more ideas? Check out TS Poetry’s idea booklet.

Questions? Thoughts? Send me a poem? Follow me on Instagram, @Claudiapoet or Twitter, @Claudiadocumented

1,000 miles: step 84

This week I’ve been thinking about being a 20-something.

I’m out of college, and I’m going into October pretty much unemployed, by choice. Don’t get me wrong, I need a job. I also need a career.

I decided that long-term data entry was a job, not a path to a career in writing or editing. It wasn’t an easy choice. The office wasn’t a hostile place. I had a full-time schedule. I could imagine myself staying there, which was part of the problem.

I have to take risks. I strongly believe in my dreams– no one’s going to make them happen but me.

My professors always said, “you can do so much with an English degree.” I haven’t changed my mind about the English degree. I have a valuable degree, but it’s one whose worth has to be proven. All throughout college, I knew that finding a job in my field would be tough. I knew that much.

I have to be honest. I didn’t imagine that the job search would be this hard, that I’ll be on job application #50 within the next week or so.

The 20s is a hard stage.

I’ve always been so ambitious, and that’s not enough. Grit is as necessary. A strong support system is as necessary. I’ve been plagued with more self-doubt than usual. Even though I know not to measure myself by the accomplishments of other people my age, I still look at close friends with full-time jobs and families.

I look at people with English or Communications degrees AND a job. And I wonder when is my life starting?

My adult, out-of-school life has started. It’s one of struggle, and I’m not a stranger to that. In 2012, when I learned I wouldn’t graduate within 4 years from college, I accepted that my life’ has a different rhythm.

These days, it’s back to sending freelance proposals to clients, re-writing cover letters, and getting excited for that one interview.

It’s going beyond writing a to-do list that isn’t related to essays, projects, or grades. It’s checking off my to-do list because I hold myself accountable. It’s…

  • Visit the National Harbor [Done!]
  • Write a collaborative poem [Done!]
  • Don’t panic when you get a flat tire [Done!]
  • Write this blog post [  ]

It’s volunteering with children, but knowing full well that I want a dog in my future. It’s feeling old.

These days, it’s remembering the 20s is young.

1,000 miles: step 83

Firstpublication

Issue 15 of Canadian magazine, Poetry is Dead

It’s been difficult to separate my personal life from the political world.

Every morning on my way to work, I’ve made it a habit to search for news articles about the future of TPS (Temporary Protected Status). I’ve been sharing these articles on social media and with friends.

Most of the time, I feel like I am speaking into a vacuum, as if no one is listening and no one is caring.

I have to remind myself that people have lives, and on a given day, one thing or another has more priority.

Some friends do check up on me, and I am as always, grateful. I do have a hard time expressing myself when it comes to the question, how am doing? My first instinct is to push people away because I am obviously not doing well–how could I when my future, life as I know it is on the line? I want to pull some kind of tantrum; of course, I don’t. All I want out of friends and allies is that, friends and allies, people to be there for me.

Time is better spent than lingering over the uncertain future.

Though, if you, reader, are interested in supporting immigrants, you should. The most important thing is to show up, speak out.

I am lucky to live in Northern Virginia and near Washington, D.C. Life still goes on. Over the past few summer months, I have become a festival go-er. Street festivals and book festivals are all fair game. The National Book Festival earlier this September was my favorite. I spent most of the time in the ground floor chasing childhood nostalgia.

Fall for the Book, a literary festival sponsored by my alma mater, George Mason, is coming up in October. I have a line up of poetry events on my itinerary.

I’ve been getting around metro and bus, with the occasional car coordination.  This past weekend, I worked on a poetry project with a friend and poet. It is a poem that speaks about our shared experience with learning the English language. When I first proposed the project, I had no idea what to expect, though I tried hard to keep organized.

I can’t wait to share the poem with the world. Collaboration is fun and challenging; it fosters understanding of the self.

There are no poetry publication news other that in August, my copy of Poetry Is Dead finally arrived. My poem, “Losing words,” selected for publication since late last year, is now being read in one corner of the world.

My inbox is otherwise filled with rejections from poetry magazines. To name a few: American Poetry Review, Meridian, and 2River. I’d like to say the sting of rejection eases with each rejection but that isn’t the case. Rejection makes you question the worth of your art. Rejection can make you angry. Rejection simply hurts. I am grateful for the summer campaign I ran, as through the funds raised, I have felt brave and supported.

I hope to find my poems small homes and my poetry larger homes through the forms of a chapbook or a poetry book. I am trying, so, so hard.

With everything that is going on, all I can do right now is fight on.

On Citizenship: A Takeaway from the DACA Decision

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Japanese-American Memorial: center sculpture by Nina A. Akamu depicts two birds with chained wings and wings breaking free

This past week, the nation tuned into Attorney Jeff Sessions’ announcement on the termination of DACA. News outlets were then eager to interview DACA recipients to share the stories of these youth. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a program. It did not offer a pathway to citizenship or permanent residency.

When the program started in 2012, it was “subject to renewal,” which meant the program was a temporary fix. Homeland Security stated strict eligibility requirements for the program, aimed at protecting youth from deportation. All DACA recipients were granted temporary work permits, which in some states were used to apply for driver’s licenses and in-state tuition. The program has a filing fee of $465.

What Congress is supposed to do within the next 6 months, shape the future of thousands of young lives, Congress had to do sooner or later.

Congress is long overdue, overdue like a library book found in the attic. Under Obama’s administration, the DREAM Act was proposed, which would create a way for undocumented youth to become citizens. In the White House Archives President Obama is on record: “I have said time and time and time again to Congress that, send me the DREAM Act, put it on my desk, and I will sign it right away.”

Congress did not pass the DREAM Act in 2012; instead, that year, President Obama pushed DACA into existence.

The program was to be renewed every two years, during which years Congress was to find another solution. The Trump administration’s decision to end DACA speeds up the necessary discussion about citizenship rights for youth who grew up believing in America and feeling American.

Who gets to be American? In a nation built on the abuse of Blacks and Native Americans, American somehow boils down to a birthright.

The U.S. is a country that offers birthright citizenship, or if born overseas, birthright through parentage.

This is because the 14 Amendment, enacted post-Civil War, states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” As baby, a person has a land to claim, a land that will protect them.

Because of birthright citizenship, some children have parents who are undocumented. Because of birthright citizenship, some mothers give birth in America. It happens. It’s ridiculous and shameful, not for the parents but for the countries that these children aren’t being born to. Something is horribly wrong if a mother has to consider geography when giving birth.

Trump proposed an end to birthright citizenship during his campaign. Whatever your opinion about the President, he wasn’t wrong in bringing up the issue. In some countries, citizenship isn’t automatically granted upon birth. In 2013, the Dominican Republican took away citizenship from thousands. A ruling declared that persons born after 1929 without “at least one parent of Dominican blood” did not qualify for citizenship. It is a ruling that is still being questioned.

In the U.S., a person born in another country has to apply for citizenship in two ways: 1) citizenship through parents 2) naturalization which often requires reaching permanent resident status.

When we talk about a pathway to citizenship, we are skipping the first step: a pathway to permanent residency.

Permanent residency must be petitioned for or sponsored by an employer, a family member, or a spouse. In some cases, victim-survivors of domestic violence, incest, or rape, can apply to U-visas. Refugees can also apply to citizenship. One of the barriers to permanent residency is the lack of education about the immigration system. Another is economical: affording an immigration attorney. I believe there is a third barrier: all cases are not equal. All lawyers are not equally qualified or capable. The process is complicated.

Over the next months, it’s important to think about what we mean when we use the word American and legal Americans. 

At the beginning of 1942, President Roosevelt issued executive order 9066. If you visit the Japanese American Memorial in Washington, DC, you will find etched in stone the story of how 120,000 Japanese Americans were mistreated during World War II.

Were these Japanese-Americans illegal? No, they were American citizens. Was America scared? Yes, and America is still scared. Today, documented and undocumented Americans face fears about job security, terrorism, quality education, and ownership of homes.

As a community member, as a fellow human, I want to acknowledge those very real fears.

It is not easy to make a living in America.

Yet, some people manage to live in America, with different degrees of success and survival. In the U.S., some people view undocumented youth and their parents as an enemy force. The enemy, however, looks more like a stubborn Congress, mass incarceration, natural disaster, low-wage, greedy corporations, and inadequate healthcare access.

In other words, the enemy isn’t touchable, which doesn’t matter because the hero walks like you, laughs like you, looks like you. Dear reader, the hero is the you that comes to understand political problems are indistinguishable from human problems. It is the you that recognizes the face of another human to find yourself.

AMERICA: PLEASE TALK ABOUT ME, BEHIND MY BACK, TOO

American-flag-AmericaI am panicking. It’s already the middle of August, and America isn’t talking much about me. Not many news sites are talking about the me that holds an immigrant “status.”

TPS news is not going viral, which is unfortunate for thousands.

TPS (Temporary Protected Status) is not really an immigrant status.

It’s not a visa. It’s not a permanent or stable residency. In short, it holds little to no claim to citizenship. It’s a temporary program that grants legal protection from deportation for persons who immigrated to America to escape war or natural disaster.

A person doesn’t apply to TPS from their home country; it doesn’t work like a visa. A person comes through illegal means, not through ill wish, but through a need to survive. If a country is indeed inhabitable, Homeland Security adds the country to a small and selective list of TPS designated countries. Then, an individual can apply for a temporary work permit and a temporary protected residency.

A recent news piece about TPS deals with Central America and was published through NBC this past Friday. Before that, there was a similar article from Mother Jones, with an opening quote of “We don’t have a plan B” published early in August. According to NBC news research, Central American TPS holders make up 80% of the TPS population. In 2014, MigrationPolicy.org estimated that there were over 340,000 TPS beneficiaries from countries like Haiti, Syria, El Salvador, and Honduras.

TPS affects hundreds of thousands.

I have been a TPS holder since 2001. Since learning and understanding my legal condition a few years ago, I have lived with mixed guilt and relief. TPS is only renewed if the Secretary of Homeland Security believes that a country is not ready to receive its people back. TPS is then extended for 18 months. The renewal process includes a filing fee of nearly $500 dollars per person.

TPS means you will go home eventually. The thing with TPS is that in many cases, it carries on for several decades—not out of a fault in the system, though many will argue that. The thing with TPS is that its extensions reflect the global instability of third world countries.

Like other TPS holders, I live in constant anxiety about the future.

I share the same sentiment with DACA recipients, and now, they share the same legal experience as me. We do not, though, share the same support. The cultural and political interest is lacking. TPS does not have age limits. The thousands of us that have it are children, students, parents, and grandparents. We aren’t just youth, as are the DACA recipients. And again, many have held TPS for decades, holding jobs and raising families: Americans without citizenship, there but overlooked.

In 2013, I volunteered with CARECEN, one of the few local organizations that works closely with the TPS community. I was not a fighter, then. I did not last long. With each failed protest, with each project’s small waves, and with each human interaction, I felt hope flee my heart.

There are days, TPS has an incredible ability to make me feel alone.

TPS for Honduras and Nicaragua expire in January 2018. For El Salvador, it’s March 2018. News of its renewal (or lack of) is released through a press statement from Homeland Security about six months before its expiration date.

Come September, I’ll be a little closer to knowing my future.

Sometimes, the lack of talk is good. It could mean that TPS is safe. It’s not an important issue. It could also mean that TPS holders are unprepared, easy targets. This is how it happened for Haitians, who are currently campaigning to stay in the U.S. longer. Their TPS status, designated in 2010, was extended for only six months, instead of the program’s usual 18 month renewal period.

I know TPS is not reliable. I know my having crossed the border as a child is a crime. Most TPS holders aren’t asking for citizenship. Like me, they ask for a permanent residency because despite our lack of legal certainty, we are Americans, permanently.

I don’t know what happens next.

I haven’t known for years. I am standing on such promising and such dangerous ground. As a recent college grad, my adult life is just beginning. As a recent college graduate with TPS, I don’t know if I will be legally allowed a job in 2018.

The bigger problem is that my America doesn’t know how I fit inside—what will become of me.

Please talk about me.

1,000 miles: step 82

work-week-Reston

Statue at Wiehle-Reston East metro

I got news! I have a summer job, and I survived my first week as an office employee.

I don’t have a briefcase. I travel light. I do have a key card, office e-mail, and a cubicle. I commute taking the bus and metro.

This Friday, through a chance accident of forgetting my stop, I experienced extreme rush hour. Let me tell you–not my cup of tea. People bumping into you. No seats left. Sighing and grumpy people.

Fridays are lovely, regardless. They will be my favorite day for weeks to come. The work I do is repetitive: data entry. There’s stacks of paper, an office keyboard and desktop, office supplies, and a scanner at my desk. There’s a line of paper boats that I’ve made over the course of the week, after I learned to expect delays with the scanner and office software.

What’s most exciting is the interactions with people.

My co-workers have all kinds of backgrounds: they are parents, single ladies, bakers, actors, writers, and so much more I’ve yet to discover. Many of them have been working together for years, or they have been at the company for decades and watched it change and grow. It’s interesting to watch their faces as they reflect on years back. As an incoming employee, it’s nice feeling to get their history.

Though this week felt exceptionally long–waking up early, coming home late–it did go by with a paradoxical and retrospective speed.

This past Tuesday, I managed to host a book chat on Twitter with Booked For Review, opening the first #B4RTalks for #31DaysOfBooks. That, too, went by quickly. If you haven’t read my young adult book reviews, visit bookedforreview.com

I also squeezed in time to make final edits to a poetry submission with a due date of today. Since meeting my fundraising campaign goal, I’ve submitted to three literary venues and anticipate many more magazines and journals. There’s a lot of competition, but I genuinely believe in my poems and because of the campaign, I know other people support my work. I’m developing a Pinterest Board for published poems and can’t wait to share in the near future.

Lotus scene

A summer scene with lotus at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

My busybody self is finally occupied.

I’ve met new people and new terms. The week ended with volunteer work with local youth, who themselves are planning volunteer work. My flower-enthusiast self is satisfied; I took my first visit to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. This weekend kicked off their festival of lotus and water lilies.

Though I’ve missed some news headings, some sleep hours, and some me-time, I couldn’t be happier.

The office job has helped me open a new chapter in my life. This chapter is headed toward opportunity.