Hope and Fear: Two California Teens On What A Sanctuary State Would Mean

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A bill that proposes to make California a “sanctuary state” is making its way through the state legislature.The bill would limit local governments from complying with federal immigration officials. For many undocumented California youth, it represents a chance to live without fear.  We asked youth from two different parts of the state to weigh in on California’s Senate Bill 54. Their stories are a collaboration between South Kern Sol and Youth Radio.

A Tale Of Two Cities

Living within a sanctuary: “I feel safe in my community”

I feel safe in my community. Which isn’t that unusual. Except I’m not just any kid. I’m undocumented.

My family emigrated from Mexico to California when I was two years old. Most of my life, I’ve lived in Hayward, which recently became a sanctuary city. Hayward joined a list of other Bay Area cities that have already declared themselves sanctuaries, which means it’s harder for the government to deport undocumented residents. When President Trump took office, my community took action to make undocumented kids feel protected. My school assured us we were in a safe place, and many of the faculty hung signs that said, “proud teacher of undocumented students.”

I’m lucky. In some places, undocumented immigrants live in fear of being kicked out of homes that they traveled miles to reach and work hard to keep.

Even before adding a sanctuary title, my city allowed me to thrive in school and be more active in my community. If there were more places like this, undocumented teens would feel a sense of belonging, despite our legal status.

– Paulina Ortega, 16


Living without a sanctuary: “Even going outside my house is scary”

I wish I could go to college, but I’m afraid. As an undocumented teenager in Lamont, California, in Kern County, even going outside my house is scary. I’m always worried about being sent back to a country that is not my home.

My parents brought me to the United States from Mexico when I was 11. All my life I’ve tried to be a good person. I have attended school since I arrived and I am a high school graduate. I’m constantly thinking of ways to better myself and find opportunities to become successful.

I’m currently working at a packaging company where my parents also work. We get up every day at 5 a.m. to get ready for the nine-hour workday. I usually work five days a week unless the machines break down. When that happens, it usually takes a few days to fix them.

Before President Trump was elected, I went to the movies with friends, out to eat and spent time at parks without being afraid. Right now, I don’t do anything but work and stay home.

If California were to become a sanctuary state, undocumented teens like myself could breathe a sigh of relief. It would mean that I could ride my bike without being scared of being detained and deported. I could go out without having to constantly look over my shoulder.

It would be life changing for my family and me. Instead of being stuck, I could plan for my future, just like most other responsible 19-year-olds.

-Luis, 19

Luis, 19, is a writer for South Kern Sol. He is protecting his family’s privacy by only using his first name. Paulina Ortega, 16, is a writer for Youth Radio. 

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