As the words of concerned Tarrant County citizens bounced off the wall of the wood panel Funky Town Creative Arts Lounge, the diverse group of people looked at one another for guidance on what they could do to help. On November 30,a small group of college students, teachers, children of illegal immigrants, undocumented immigrants, retail workers and leaders of nonprofit organizations decided it was time to open the discussion of what could citizens do next to help the undocumented immigrants in the area.
For many citizens interested in making a difference in the Tarrant County area the discussion started with the statewide premiere of America Ferrera’s documentary, Out of Reach. The film focused on the illegal and undocumented immigrants of Texas and the challenges they faced to come to America. In the final months of President Obama’s administration, Ferrera traveled to Texas to find out how immigration policies are affecting the 1.65 million undocumented people currently living in the state. In Out of Reach, she witnessed the experiences of Central American asylum seekers in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas who have fled unimaginable violence only to face detention, deportation and more.
“I really enjoyed it,” Jennifer de Haro, staff attorney from The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. “I thought she [America Ferrera] and the movie[Out of Reach] pulled in a lot of viewpoints and I appreciated that final perspective of someone that was born here but is happening to deal with the same issues as undocumented immigrants.”
Even after seeing the film three times before the showing in Fort Worth, Vice President of the North Texas Dream Team, Kristian Hernandez still gets very emotional about the difficult situations undocumented immigrants must deal with daily.
“We are really at the forefront of DACA work and when it was placed,” Hernandez said. “We have been pushing and thinking beyond immigration when it comes to immigrant rights-whether that’s healthcare, financial rights, literacy, so on. I have already seen the film [three times] and it still makes me cry everytime.”
Even though, the film focused specifically on undocumented immigrants and DREAMer’s, members of the hosting organizations, The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, North Texas Dream Team, spoke in a panel to the audience members to discuss the constant possibility of deportation in the Tarrant County area after the approval of SB4.
With SB4 in effect in Tarrant County, police officers, chiefs and sheriffs are required, under the threat of penalty, to hold any criminal suspects under the threat of deportation, according to star-telegram.com.
Senior political science and government major and co-founder of United Fort Worth, Daniel Garcia Rodriguez, was one of the panel members that spoke very strongly against the newly adopted law.
“I am one of the co-founders of United Fort Worth, which is a grassroots organization that kind of birth from showing opposition to Senate Bill 4 and trying to get the city of Fort Worth to join together and join in a lawsuit against Senate Bill 4,” Rodriguez said.
After noticing the absent voices of Tarrant County politicians, Rodriguez and a few of his college friends decided to make a difference.
“We gatherize and uniform with other individuals in the city to create a collective power to try and change some of the structures, conversations and perspectives around Senate Bill 4 that was very absent among the city,” Rodriguez said. “And, we saw that many of the individuals that is supposed to represent the city were very quiet on the discussion so me and other young college students decided to start gather some support and start bringing in organizations to start creating power.”
Rodriguez’s biggest goal to take away from the event was to inspire more people to get involved with United Fort Worth.
“We hope we can build a relationship [with those interested in the organization], so that we can continue to work on these [issues]. Because there’s are not just hot topic issues these are issues that affect not only our lives, but the lives of so many families, kids who can’t potentially speak their voice because they don’t feel empowered or a part of the society that we live in. But, hopefully, we can work together to start changing some of the structure within our city, state and nation.”
Even though Rodriguez is busy with United Fort Worth, he still makes time to showcase his love for helping others at Texas Wesleyan.
“I am a first-generation college student interested in the political/social spectrum and involvement in my community,” Rodriguez said. “As a son of immigrants, I look to take advantage of every opportunity in order to advance my career and community”
When asked what could people do next to help those in need, Hernandez said, “Well, let’s rally together and get this thing going.”