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Looking ahead to a year of struggle to get legalization for all

Commentary by Marisol Marquez |
December 23, 2014
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Tampa, Florida - The holidays are a time for family to come together, especially Mexican families in the U.S. For Oscar Hernandez, a DREAMer and member of Raíces en Tampa, this is the same plan.

Oscar was ten years of age when he boarded a plane, equipped with a temporary VISA and left his native state of Zacatecas, Mexico. Leaving his mother and one of his sisters behind, Oscar reunited with some of his siblings in the state of California.

Oscar had a more pleasant border-crossing story compared not only to the majority of immigrants from Central America and Mexico but also in comparison to his siblings. One of Oscar's older brothers developed hypothermia from crossing the border during the winter in the trunk of a car. Another brother almost drowned swimming the Rio Grande.

"Growing up was tough, for me," says Oscar of his first years while in the U.S. There was a long wait for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes and because of this, Oscar, without knowing a word of English, was forced to sit through classes he did not comprehend. "I was seen as a foreigner and many Chicano 'cholos' [gangsters] seeing me as a foreigner, picked on me."

It would be close to two years, but Oscar would finally be reunited with his mother and his remaining sister. They would eventually move to the state of Florida. After high school, Oscar went on to working in construction.

In 2012, when President Obama issued Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Oscar was able to apply and obtain DACA. "But being DACAmented doesn't ensure you won't be deported," says Oscar who is actively fighting for a more permanent status not only for himself but for his mother, family and all other undocumented immigrants.

In response to the expansion of DACA, Oscar's mother says, "While it's a good start, myself and my daughters are being left out. How many others are also being left out of this new protection?"

Oscar's family is not the only family who will not be receiving legalization this holiday season. Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) will only protect about 5 million of the close to 12 million undocumented.

"Right now Raíces en Tampa is fighting for a Bay-Area immigrant named Sergio Cardoso who despite living in the U.S. for more than 20 years, has orders for deportation," says Oscar. "A holiday destroyed by a deportation is something no family should have to go through."

The upcoming year will be a year full of new battles. Raíces en Tampa plans to continue fighting for the legalization for all of the undocumented and to do so, the battle for driver's licenses to be issued to all of the undocumented in Florida will continue.

"I feel that a piece paper should not define a person," says Oscar. "But that is exactly how immigrants are defined in this country. We are forced back for not having this piece of paper, and are forced to live in fear. As long as this oppression continues i will continue to fight for equal rights."

Sign the Driver's Licenses for All Undocumented - Florida petition here: http://raicesentampa.wordpress.com/sign-the-dl4all-petition/

Marisol Márquez is a Chicana activist and member of Raíces en Tampa and Freedom Road Socialist Organization.