Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge Speech - January 27th, 2018

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

by: Allyson Duarte

Photo by Scott Nicol

The following speech was given during a rally at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge (located along the Texas-Mexico Border) on January 27th, 2018. The refuge is the first proposed location for Border Wall Construction by the Trump Administration.

Hello everyone! How are you all doing?! My name is Allyson Duarte, and I am a DACA beneficiary, activist, and resident of Rio Grande Valley. I'm very happy to be out here today! Seeing all of you be part of this beautiful demonstration of resistance is reinvigorating, specially after being away from home for so many days! Ever since September 5th, after the termination of the DACA program, I have made a number of trips to Washington D.C. to advocate for sensible policy regarding immigration. The latest of these trips culminated last Monday, January 22nd, after the Senate voted to end last week's government shutdown. You see, I was there, inside the Senate Gallery, when the vote took place. We, DREAMers, were hoping that Senate Democrats kept their word and continued to hold the line for us—as they said they would—and vote against any spending bill if sensible protections for immigrant youth were not included. However, as we all know now, that was not the case. Democrats, including Senator Richard “Dick” Durbin from Illinois, one of the original co-sponsors of the DREAM Act, despite meeting with us and reassuring us that he would vote against any spending bill that did not include protections for ourselves and our parents, went ahead and betrayed us. I remember clearly how that felt; it was.... it was a stab on the back. There was the man, who in one of his encounters with DREAMers wept as we were overpowered by emotions upon hearing his promise to not only push for a path to citizenship for immigrant youth, but to also fight to institute a program similar to DACA to protect our parents... there he was, voting in support of the Continuing Resolution. You see, at some point all of this becomes a burden... a heavy burden. Everyone seems to want to know how we feel about the Border Wall, a possible end to the Diversity Visa Lottery, or Trump’s desire to end "Chain Migration”— which in reality is “Family reunification,” but what most seem to be forgetting is that it is OUR LIVES what is at stakes here. Being used as leverage to negotiate Border Wall funding and to promote nationalistic immigration policy is not only disempowering, but dehumanizing. Not having a say on negotiations, or being disregarded when one does, is a sure way to attempt to reduce us to nothingness. As I said, it is OUR LIVES what is at stakes here. And while we are concerned about deportation and the future of our families, by NO means are we willing to trade any form of protection for Border Wall Funding, an end to the Diversity Visa Lottery, nor are we willing to neglect the sacrifices our parents have made to propel us to where we are now. We must be reminded that the threat bringing us all here today is far more complex than a sole attack on our precious Wildlife Refuge and other infrastructural concerns associated with Border Wall Construction in our communities.

The spiteful rhetoric driving the Trump Administration to push for the allocation of 25 Billion dollars for Border Wall Construction and Border reinforcement is rooted in hatred, ignorance, and fear. — Hatred towards difference in the form of racism and white supremacy. — Ignorance about the real life conditions of communities along the Southern Border Region. — And Fear amidst National Security and Foreign Policy measures that consider a Border Wall as necessary for contributing to the protection of a "national society" in a world that is seen as being in a state of anarchy. As a DACA recipient, activist, and border resident, I can attest that hyperbole-driven immigration policy proposals coming out of D.C. DO NOT benefit us. It is for this reason that we must remain strong and hold our representatives accountable; demanding that beyond mere adherence to party politics or loyalties to campaign donors and sponsors, they put the interests of our community above all. For instance, voting in support of a Continuing Resolution, which DID NOT include protections for immigrant youth; and claiming that said vote was based on the need to protect the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries of the RGV, seems highly questionable when the second largest donor of one's Congressional Campaign are private hospitals in our community. This is something my good friend, Jonathan Salinas, and I became aware of during a research discussion about campaign finance and congressional voting.

Don’t get me wrong, we are glad children are able to get the healthcare they need, but a solution for both CHIP beneficiaries and Dreamers could have been found months ago.

So be sure to know where your representatives stand, their voting history, and demand that they support policy that makes sense for all of us, borderlands residents!

Go Dream Act!

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