Empty Victory

reyna_2On Thursday night many elected officials and advocates had big smiles on their faces claiming victory. Their victory made me think about our different realities. The same day I was sitting next to Jose Patiño inside the Puente’s office and looking around a room filled with people who are directly affected by what the President would announce. I felt my heart heavy and confused. Tears of anger and disappointment came to my faces as I heard the President speak. I couldn’t help but to think about my dad, my aunt, Patiño’s parents, Ma Elena, Lupita, Ma Cruz and all those beautiful people who have given me so much strength when everything was so dark.

These people gave me strength to continue to fight and stand up against those in charge, those who caused so much pain.The same people who gave me the strength would not be included in this empty scream of victory.

I can’t call this a victory when I know that CCA is filled with little souls that won’t qualify for this “relief.” I can’t help to remember that cold April morning outside of Jeh Johnsons’s house in DC. It was five a.m., there was a small group of us. We hold pictures of our families who have been in deportation proceedings. It was cold. It was raining. I hold my rosary; every bead I prayed was offered up for those who suffered. Those who have been through the pain of missing their loved ones.  I can’t forget Oneeka’s cracking voice that day as we hold each other’s hand praying for the man who could stop this pain. Oneeka’s father, Dave, was scheduled to be deported and separated from his four children. I am thinking about how Oneeka’s dad was deported because Obama did not act soon enough.

How can I thank Obama and Jeh Johnson when they are not even recognizing the true separation, pain, and trauma their actions and inactions have cost our people? How can I thank the man who deported my friends? How can I thank the man who kept my dad away from my family for nine long and empty months? I can’t call this a victory because in June 2013 I held Joel’s hands through the metal border fence in Nogales and made a promise. I promised that I would never stop fighting until he could see his mom and dad again. He unfortunately was on the other side of the border fence because in 2009 he was deported. He was a dreamer. He was deported before DACA existed. I can’t call this a victory when I know that his parents, Don Julio and Mari Paz are still suffering.

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I can’t call this a victory when I know that it is uncertain when they will embrace their son again. Who determines which families get to be united or not? Who determines which families are worthy of happiness or sadness? There has been so much pain, so many people have suffered, been wounded and separated by this machine. So many families have been already hurt. Two millions is easily said by politicians and advocates. The phrase “two million” meant nothing on Thursday to the President. He failed to acknowledge that these two million already deported also had families. He forgot to say that two millions souls have already been hurt.

Who is worthy of being together with their family? Or perhaps it’s a better question to ask: who is worthy? As I think of this question I suddenly feel a change in my body. My hands are so cold, and my heart is so heavy. I can feel my heart rising and the warmth of my body that rises up all the way to my throat, forming a big clog of emptiness and tightness. Who gets to determine somebody else’s worth? Aren’t we all children of God? Aren’t we all human? But… what is humanity? And… when or how did we get to this point where the majority of our families are still suffering?

I have always tried to see the good in others. I’m perhaps still way too naïve and I have been fooling myself believing that we as people can be better, that we are by nature loving creatures. Maybe that has been my coping mechanism. Maybe deep inside all I ever wanted was to be recognized as a person. Not the person with the accent, not as the person who is not “from here.” Not as my gender or my academic studies. I just wanted my humanity to be recognized. Why can’t we just recognize each other as people? Why can’t we just support each other instead of constantly bringing each other down? Why isn’t my dad worthy of being with his family? Why have we created this imaginary line between who is worthy and who is worthless?

Call me naïve, but I know the cry of my community, a beautiful community that tries so hard just so their humanity gets recognized. It breaks my heart that we have a black man, who I’m sure has faced the same struggle of not being recognized as a person, telling my people that they are not worthy of dreaming, working, making mistakes and learning from them. I am so afraid, I feel so empty and guilty because I have internalized this fight. I feel so empty, because that is how this society wants me to feel. Like an empty glass bottle that is worthless without its liquid, so fragile, so breakable. I feel empty because I can’t help to not be proud of whom I am. Because I am sick and tired of having to wear so many hats and share my deepest experiences for someone else’s sake, for someone else to validate my worth. Deep inside I can only see my mom’s face embracing me with her hope, my dad’s gentle arms embracing me, trying to protect me from everything, and that is what love is. That is when I know how much I’m really worth. I wish I could embrace every undocumented person in this country with the same love and tell them that they are worthy, their life matters and I love them.

– Reyna Montoya

Reyna Montoya is an ASU graduate, a teacher, a dancer, a daughter, sister, and a community organizer in Arizona. With her team and the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, she organized a direct action to stop a deportation bus, a family reunification at the Arizona border and a hunger strike on the White House lawn. She successfully fought her father’s deportation with the support of the community. Under the current rules he will not qualify for Obama’s executive action.

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