My name is Prerna Lal. I’m not really undocumented anymore, but I’m in deportation proceedings, and I’m unafraid, so that should count for something. I’d like to welcome everyone to Washington D.C., which has been my home for two years now.
This is the first time I’ve been in a church, since I was caught making out with a girl in a church as a teenager. But we won’t discuss that right now. We’ll table that for the social hour tonight.
Four years ago, when we launched DreamActivist.org, we were young, full of energy, and enthusiasm. Now, we are old, tired and jaded. (See “How to be Jaded” here). Like most of you, I’ve been waiting for the day that I could leave this country. I’m still waiting. My dreams are still deferred.
But I’ve learned some incredible lessons as a part of this movement. And I’ve been asked to pass on some of the lessons I’ve learned to a new generation of undocumented youth. So listen up, take good notes, because you will not hear this anywhere else:
- You can do a hunger strike for two whole weeks and still not lose any weight;
- You don’t get to have any papers till you get placed in deportation proceedings;
- You have to make sure that your best artists aren’t occupying offices or walking across the country because then, there is no one left to actually paint the banners for this event;
- You can fly across the country, and maybe even leave the country in a few months, but still not know how to swim;
- You can’t get a job anywhere but somehow your allies get to keep their jobs every year that comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act don’t pass;
- You go to border patrol to get arrested in a civil disobedience action, but the border patrol agent already knows your name, where you live and where your parents live and invites you to breakfast the next morning;
- You can’t even occupy an ICE detention center, hope to get detained and get free room/board paid for by CCA and Geo Group – they don’t want us in there so you need to find another way to free-load;
- You can break all the laws you want to (as long as you don’t get caught), but there is one rule you cannot break, and that is: NEVER MARRY ANOTHER UNDOCUMENTED PERSON. So don’t get too social during social hour.
Despite the pessimism or cautious optimism, I think we won a big victory two weeks ago with Obama’s announcement. You should all be proud of how much you’ve achieved in such a short time. But there is so much more left to do.
We are miles behind our fellow Americans. We have yet to learn how to get into massive credit card and student loan debt. We have yet to start exploiting whatever is left of welfare, Medicare, Medicaid and social security benefits. We cannot yet go to other countries, topple their governments and insist that they only speak English. We are still not doing our part in bringing about climate change so we need to hurry up, get our driver’s licenses so we can buy vehicles and catch up with other Americans on greenhouse gas emissions. And we’ve yet to achieve our goal of open borders, not just for corporations, but for people.
I will leave it to the next generation of Dreamers* (undocumented youth), to finish that laundry list of things to do. And remember, never stop dreaming because dreams do come true.