Storytelling for Advocacy: Demanding a Path to Permanent Residency

EBSC march for permanent residency
In August, over 700 undocumented residents and allies marched from San Jose to San Francisco to show their support for immigration reform and a path to permanent residency. 

They advocated for the passage of HR 1511, also known as “Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929” or “Registry Bill.” The legislation would provide legal immigration status to 8.5 of the almost 12 million undocumented people living in the United States. Marchers also honored the millions of migrants who have suffered life threatening conditions in order to reach the US.

VOW’s partner East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (EBSC) took part in the 40-mile walk, and our partnerships manager Ela Banerjee worked with their community members on sharing their stories in preparation for the walk. In a workshop at EBSC’s office, each participant shared details of their immigration journey and the process of building their lives, homes, and families in the US. As a group, we asked follow-up questions, took notes, and expressed our support for each other. We discussed how each person is so much more than a one or two paragraph message, but also acknowledged the power of sharing effective messages to media and policymakers.

Together, we helped each person craft a concise message that shared key highlights about how much they have endured being in legal limbo and what having permanent residency would mean to them.

Check out a few of the stories excerpts below, and read more on the EBSC website. Contact your representatives and ask them to pass the Registry Bill!

I have lived in the United States for 23 years. I worked as a truck driver until 2011, when I got very sick. I was diagnosed with kidney failure and had to get a transplant. It was a really hard time; I had to sell my truck trailer to pay the bills, so I lost my capacity to work. But I was on Medicare and that helped a lot. When Trump cancelled TPS, I lost my Medicare and things became very difficult for me and my family. I started to work odd jobs to survive. It’s been very stressful. If I had permanent residency, I could find steady work as a truck driver again, pay for my medicine, and support my daughter, who is studying business. I am very proud of her and want to be able to help her finish her studies.

I have lived in the United States for 31 years. I work in special education for the county. The children I work with are very vulnerable and have many needs. I have a lot of experience and training to help care for them so they can access their education. I’m the #1 requested a substitute teacher for special education in the county–but I can’t get a permanent position, because I have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and not permanent residency. If I received permanent residency, I could have a stable position with full benefits, including a retirement plan and Medicare coverage when I retire. My dream is to one day retire after working so hard for decades.

I have lived in the United States for almost 30 years. I was born in Honduras, but my life was threatened by violence and civil wars happening in Central America. I had to flee to the U.S. for safety. I worked very hard to support my six children, working in gardening, house painting, construction, and sanitation. Sometimes employers refused to pay me and they would owe me thousands of dollars. But I kept working hard, usually three jobs at a time. In 2008, I bought my first house in San Pablo. It was a huge accomplishment to finally own my own home. The USA is my home. My house, my kids, my life’s work is here. If I received permanent residency, I would no longer be so worried about being forced to leave my family. I would have a secure retirement with my own savings and be able to spend time with my grandchildren. We are all human beings deserving of dignity. ¡En las calles también se puede!

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