MCALLEN, Texas – LUPE Votes board member Martha Sanchez recalled her own experience as an immigrant to make the case for comprehensive immigration reform.
Sanchez, who retired recently as a community organizer with La Unión del Pueblo, spoke at a town hall meeting hosted by LUPE Votes. The meeting was was held Saturday evening at The Gremlin in downtown McAllen.
“I was one of the first Dreamers, I guess you could say. But there was no such thing as Dreamers back then. In my little pueblito in Mexico I was dreaming of opportunities for my life because I did not have opportunities there,” Sanchez told the audience at the town hall meeting.
Sanchez came to the United States as a teenager.
“I was undocumented, I worked as a housekeeper. I could not go to school because I did not have anybody to support me. I did not have anybody to support me in Mexico and I did not have anybody to support me here. I had to work for my life,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said she was fortunate to find the love of her life, who, also fortunately, was a U.S. citizen.
“I got married. I was able to adjust my status. It was not as difficult as it is today. I was fortunate enough to have three kids. The three kids are three college graduates. I was just looking for this little opportunity to break into this society. To be able to take that and become the person that I was really meant to be. I could not be in my own country, where I did not have any opportunity.”
Sanchez said she and her three children have given a lot to her adopted country.
“My three kids are really big contributors to the tax system. Every person on this journey has the same dreams. They have that potential. They would be able to contribute, they just want that opportunity,” Sanchez said.
“I feel I did not take a lot from this country, I gave a lot to this country. I had given up my life and I have three wonderful kids who are contributing a lot to this country. This is the amazing gift that we bring to this country.”
Today, Sanchez said, the immigration system is “truly broken.” She said the opportunity she had, to adjust her immigrant status, to become a legal resident, to become a citizen, has been all but closed.
“We want opportunities for people like me. They (undocumented immigrants) do not want to take from anybody else. They want the opportunity to work hard and produce for this country. That is why immigration reform is super important. Those of us, two generations, three generations, do not forget, that we are here because someone gave us an opportunity. They gave an opportunity to our parents or our grandparents.”
A colleague of Sanchez’s in the immigrant community pointed out to her that she actually has an even greater claim to be in the United States than the one she offered.
“I was really here for 3,000 years because I am a native. I am not an immigrant. I just crossed a river, right? My people have been here for 3,000 years. This is my land,” Sanchez said.
“That is why we deserve to be here. Most of us indigenous people, this is our land. Somebody took that river and said we are owners of this land but really it belongs to us.”
Sanchez added: “It is the right thing to do, to be compassionate, to have an immigration system that welcomes people. To give an opportunity to these people that right now are working in the shadows. That is why immigration is important.”
The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service interviewed Sanchez a few days before the town hall meeting. Sanchez explained that LUPE Votes is looking for a progressive candidate to run in Congressional District 15. Here is the interview:
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