Are the Undocumented Risking It All For A Little Known March?

Originally published on, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.

By: Denise Tejada

An estimated 900 buses from 28 states are fueling up in advance of Sunday's immigration reform march in Washington D.C. March For America organizers expect to surpass their goal of 50,000 attendees, but with health care reform stealing headlines, Youth Radio's Denise Tejada asked Shuya Ohno, Deputy Communications Director for the coalition of march organizers, if there's any chance they'll achieve their larger goal of getting immigration reform on the 2010 legislative calendar.

Denise Tejada: One of the things that makes the March For America unique is that so many immigrants are outing themselves as illegal. Why are so many young people doing that when it puts their futures at risk?

Shuya Ohno: Their futures have already been at risk. Many of them have known only this country; they don't even remember having been born in another country. I meet young people all the time who were brought here as infants, one year old, two years old. So they grew up here and feel completely American, this is the only country know, the only culture they know. And yet because they don't have that number, that social security number - just a few digits - they've had to live their whole lives in fear... Their coming out has been an incredibly powerful and empowering experience, even though you're right that they are putting themselves at risk of being deported to a country that they've never known.

SO: Education is part of opportunity that I think every American disserves. Education is absolutely the key to economic stability and well being, not just for the individual, but for the community and for the country as a whole. And so discrimination at that educational level is something that we really need to address, and immigration reform will do that for so many thousands and thousands of these youth who are trapped by this immigration system. They don't have access to higher education in so many ways.

DT: With healthcare legislation moving forward in the house this weekend, are you worried that the march in D.C. won't receive the coverage it deserves?

SO: It would be nice to get more coverage... But what's important for us, and I say this even though I'm the Deputy Director of Communications, is that this is not just a media event. While I know the importance of media, this event is for the people who are showing up. This event is for all the communities out there who are having prayer circles, who are having vigils. And this event is also for the elected officials to take notice, and it's great actually that Congress will to be debating and voting (that day), because Congress is going to actually be at the Capitol and we're going to march right by them as they're coming out.

DT: Is the reason you're pushing this forward now, because you think there's political will to pass an immigration reform bill?

Yes absolutely. The president and leadership in the House and the Senate had said they would try to get to immigration reform in the first year (of Barack Obama's presidency), and the first year has come and gone...

Is that why you're not waiting until May 1st to take action?

SO: That's right, now is the time. And after we announced the march the president actually sat down with some of our leaders and advocates at The White House, face to face, and discussed what really needs to happen. And on that very same day, last week, the president met with Senators Graham and Schumer from the Republican and Democratic side to sit down and figure out how to get this done for the American people.

DT: What are some of the things that the president said, and what are some of the actions that he's willing to take?

SO: It was actually a very tense argument from what I understand, but it was actually a very productive one. And I think the events yesterday show just how productive that was. Just yesterday Senators Schumer and Graham co-wrote and published an editorial in the Washington Post, outlining a framework for immigration reform legislation... Only one hour after that article appeared, The White House issued a public statement in support of this bipartisan effort.

DT: Are you hoping to change people's minds?

SO: Well I think peoples minds have been changing over these years. I think everybody is starting to really understand that these problems need to be solved and that they are solvable. We can't keep burying our heads in the sand. The problems only get worse when we do that. Immigration is just such a problem where we have to face it. We have to figure out the best way to solve these problems. We know that the laws today aren't working right, we know that they need to be fixed, and I think it just takes understanding and courage to say okay, let's fix it.

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