“I am undocumented and unafraid,” said Marvin Giron at a May Day vigil for immigration reform at the Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Santa Barbara on Monday night. But it wasn’t always that way.
Giron’s activism is animated by a signal regret. When a tractor-trailer driver was deported from an L.A.-area warehouse where Giron worked after dropping out of UCSB, his fellow workers staged a walkout. Worried about his family’s livelihood, Giron decided not to participate. Now, he says, he is “wiser and stronger.” He also benefits from two recently passed laws — AB 540 and the California Dream Act — that allow certain undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public universities and receive state aid. Because of such legislation, Giron was able to return to UCSB in January after a five-year hiatus to finish his global studies degree.
Traditionally, May Day gatherings celebrate the cause of the labor movement. Last night’s event focused on immigration reform for the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented workers. Organized by CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy) and other progressive groups, the vigil featured clerics, politicians, activists, and AB 540 students like Giron who came to the U.S. at the age of 3 and Nayra Pacheco who immigrated at the age of 6 and grew up on the Westside. Pacheco will graduate from UCSB in June and is still waiting for a work permit. She said that even when she gets that permit and locks down a job, “it won’t be enough.”
“I’ll have to bear the thought that my dad is driving in the streets afraid,” she said.
Also offering testimonio — a Latin American literary genre where the story of a single witness speaks to a collective experience — was married couple Maria Guadalupe and Jorge Preciado with their two young children. Maria Guadalupe is undocumented while her husband, who stands on his feet all day doing assembly at an electronics company despite chronic leg pain from a childhood surgery, is a legal resident. It was an exuberant Congressmember Lois Capps, however, who brought down the house, leading a chant of “Si se puede!” after telling her audience, “We can make a good country great by passing comprehensive immigration reform.”