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Monday December 5th

Undocumented and unafraid: Local youths take a stand against fear

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Aleyda de Dios has called the United States home since she was two years old. But when her daughter is born later this week, the baby girl will already have something de Dios has only wished for — U.S. citizenship.

“It’s hard when you are undocumented, and you’re going to have a kid,” a pregnant de Dios told a group of undocumented youth and their documented “allies” when they gathered at Peace and Justice Plaza Friday.

A crowd of roughly 50 came together for an “Undocumented, Unafraid” gathering in downtown Chapel Hill. At the event, teens and young adults like de Dios shared their citizenship status and tales of their immigration-related trials.

Friday’s event was organized by Immigrant Youth Forum, which is led by Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools students.

The group was created with the help of the N.C. DREAM Team, a statewide youth organization based out of the Triangle that advocates for immigrant rights.

Dulce Gonzalez, a senior at Carrboro High School and an organizer of the event, said she is a U.S. citizen and was surprised when members of N.C. DREAM Team approached her to help lead the high school group.

“I was just like … I was in shock,” she said. “I never thought they would ask me, because of my status.”

Gonzalez’s family immigrated from Mexico, and many of her friends are undocumented — and she said their stories pushed her become involved.

She said both documented and undocumented students lead the Immigrant Youth Forum, and together they spent about a month planning Friday’s event.

Of the six forum leaders who attended, she said four do not hold U.S. citizenship.

Jose Torres-Don, an N.C. DREAM Team member, said he and others had been in conversation with the students for some time before the students decided to create the forum.

This year, the group officially organized as a community initiative. Torres said the youth forum meets every Tuesday and includes both students and high school graduates.

As the forum has grown as an organization, Torres said the N.C. DREAM Team has played a supporting role.

“We’re letting them know that there are undocumented youth from across the country who are organizing themselves,” Torres said.

Emilio Vicente, a UNC public policy major who came out as undocumented in Peace and Justice Plaza two years ago, said he commended the young speakers at Friday’s event.

He said it is encouraging to see students share their status at a young age, because coming out early will help them find support during their college search — and change minds about immigration.

“It puts a face to the issue,” he said.

And de Dios said that events like the Immigrant Youth Forum’s rally on Friday are essential to raise awareness.

“You just have to show support, show that you are not scared,” she said. “My main motivation now is my daughter.”

Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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