By: Paola Mendoza

I am an immigrant.

My mother came to this country with me on her hip and my brother tugging at her skirt.

One morning my father left for work and he never came back. He abandoned us after only having been in the United Stated for a few months. My mother held fast to her dreams even as the world was unraveling around her.

Somehow, she was able to forge a path for us. Our path included homelessness, poverty and welfare. But it also included my mom’s first job at a fast food restaurant and our first day at school. Today our paths have been filled with lives well lived, moments of celebration, success and love.

My story is a quintessential immigrant story.

As our country tries to vilify and dehumanize immigrants, I have no choice but to fight back and tell our stories with love and dignity.

As the great Paul Robeson once said, “Artists are the gate keepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” I am trying to be a gatekeeper of our truth, our humanity, of our beauty, of the power of what it means to be an immigrant in this country. So, while the forces of the current administration are trying to dehumanize immigrants, I firmly believe that in our stories lives our power.  I live by the old adage, “You cannot hate someone whose story you know.” If we can see the beauty, the strength and the inspiration in each one of us, then I believe kindness and compassion will be extended to the immigrant who lives next door to us. To the immigrant we see on TV. And even to the stranger who is an immigrant.

Never doubt that our existence as immigrants is our resistance. But in today’s anti-immigrant climate we need to do more than simply resist. We need to do more than just tell our stories.

There are 25 million eligible Latin@ voters in the United States. In 2016 only 11 million Latin@s voted. That leaves 14 million Latin@ voters that can change the course of this country. An astounding 70% of Latin@s know at least one undocumented immigrant. Make no mistake how the President won the election. He won it on the backs of hating undocumented immigrants.  Undocumented immigrants make up our families, our friends and our co-workers. His hatred for our community placed him in the highest office in the land. And now it is up to us to protect our community. If the 14 million Latin@s  that did not vote decided to vote on November 6th we would be the most powerful voting block in the country. If the 14 million Latin@s that did not vote in 2016 decided to stand up for one another and vote down hatred, xenophobia and racism we would not only be protecting our undocumented brothers and sister we would also save our country in the process

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