By Emily Cabaniss and Justin Valas

As mentioned in the previous post, the dangers of coming out in rural North Carolina are all too real. Last week at the Lexington Multicultural Festival, four undocumented youth resisted the factors that push back on their ability to have a normal future in the place they call home- they came out of the shadows in a very public place.

Judging by the double-takes that the randomly passing police officers gave us, our booth clearly stood out from the rest of the crowd:

Photo by J. Valas

Over the course of the day, dozens of people stopped by our booth to express their support and solidarity. Of those dozens, four youth experienced something very different and left with a subtly defiant glow of confidence in their eyes.

One young woman told me that she had graduated from high school last year and was still wondering what is next. “I want to get into community college, I want to study early childhood education and teach young children.” The only frustration was continued confusion over whether she could get into school (let alone the abusive registration process), and obvious concerns about how to finance the out-of-state tuition she would surely be charged….

A couple of other youth, dressed in the crisp fatigues of JROTC, casually picking up our materials asked about what we do. Nonchalantly, one of the two let it drop that as an undocumented High School senior they were wondering what came next.

Another youth stood and conversed with me at length about the importance of the DREAM Act, and the importance of working to safeguard the rights and futures of undocumented youth. Suddenly, she switched over to Spanish and told me “Soy una de esos estudiantes (I am one of those students).” She went on to tell me about how she had been accepted to college with a generous scholarship package and how much she wanted to share that knowledge with others.

A future child educator. JROTC youth. A student who merited a full-ride scholarship to a prestigious university. These are some of the stories of undocumented youth in rural North Carolina, who are impacted by the anti-immigrant bills in the NC General Assembly. These are some of the youth whose futures are put on hold as Senator Kay Hagan refuses to support the DREAM Act.

As an ally, I felt amazed and inspired by these youth. Full of  energy, they had the courage to approach a stranger and shared both their status and desires for the future in a rural county known for its anti-immigrant tendencies.

If there is one thing that I have learned from the past year of our activism in NC and across the country, it is this:

Empowerment is contagious.

How will you use yours?

If you are undocumented, and ready to come out- please get in touch with us (also, check out this great guide compiled by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance).

Everyone should feel free to contact your local Representative and Senator in NC (find yours here), and tell them that you expect them to oppose all anti-immigrant legislation in the General Assembly. You can also urge your Representative and Senators in DC (find yours here) to co-sponsor and support the DREAM Act.

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