Pin It

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The 'coming out' stories of six undocumented students arrested yesterday near the Gold Dome

Rolando Zenteno, 16, is arrested during yesterdays immigration rally near the Gold Dome
  • Joeff Davis
  • Rolando Zenteno, 16, is arrested during Tuesday's immigration rally near the Gold Dome
The six undocumented students arrested yesterday near the Gold Dome for blocking traffic while protesting the Georgia's immigration policies had their first appearance in court today. One of those charged, 16-year-old Georgia resident Rolando Zenteno, says he was brought to the United States by his parents as a seven-year-old child. Zenteno's joined a growing number of undocumented immigrants across the country who have "gone public" about their citizenship status.

CL obtained the remarks that Zenteno and others drafted for yesterday's rally, which Capitol Police say attracted an estimated 200 people:

My name is Rolando Zenteno and I am undocumented.

Picture a seven year-old kid brought to this country by parents who contemplated the cruel reality of their lives and decided to enter the United States in a pursuit of a better life. A kid who had no say or voice, whose imagination was the source of all his happiness. It was in this pursuit that I tagged along.

I brought along a pocket full of fainted memories and a young mind confined to few experiences. We arrived at an apartment we shared with another family. We did not have the luxury of a bed, extra clothes or other possessions. We had ambitions though, and together we began building a better life. I had no clue what was going on; everything around me was different, but I was adapting. And so my life began.

Read the rest of Zenteno's story after the jump. Read the stories of the other people who were arrested yesterday, in PDF form, here.

I started school in the second grade. My mind was slowly beginning to take shape. It was then that I was introduced to new cultures, but my eyes were color-blind. For when I saw people, I didn’t see their color - I just saw their person. At first I had trouble learning English. I was often mocked in elementary school and it made me feel uncomfortable. I remember spending hours translating my homework for 3 hours after school with my mom, dictionary in hand. I cried. I saw kids playing outside, running, yelling, and having fun.

I knew from that moment on that I was different. I went through many humiliations, but these experiences made me lose my fear, and little by little my English improved. I began to speak it more often, and Spanish...well, Spanish began to fade, only to be spoken at home. I had never heard the word undocumented until I entered middle school, and it wasn’t until I enrolled in high school that I realized the severity of my situation.

I was able to adapt to my environment quite quickly. Eventually, English became my language of preference. I love Georgia. I learned how to ride a bike and how to swim here. I have made the most beautiful memories, met so many wonderful people, and I have given it my all in school to become a successful member of society. I consider Georgia my home, regardless of what Georgia state legislators may have you believe. In a way, I feel ostracized by the same society that made me who I am. My desire is only to contribute rather than degrade. I wish Georgia could understand that.

Now, I am faced with an ample challenge. The same state that encouraged me to learn as a kid is depriving my attendance to Georgia’s top universities. Am I not good enough? I have the values, the character, and the aspirations of any American kid. The passage of HB 87 has brought the immigrant community in Georgia out of the shadows of anonymity. It has brought us closer and it has made us stronger. Yes, there is fear, but there is also the will to fight and together we will prevail.

Admittedly, I am a bit nervous of the future, but I would rather take action than sit back and wait. I decided it is time to let my voice be heard. I want to speak on my father’s behalf, to give our community a voice. I ask the youth of Georgia to come out and show your faces. Let us give a voice to the unknown and a face to those who are concealed. Let us make our dreams a palpable reality.

The great lion has awakened, and you have a choice to make. You can sit there and remain in obscurity, or come out and be the change that you want to see in society. In the words of D.H. Lawrence, you can either “dream in the dusty recesses of your mind,” or you can make those dreams a tangible reality.

The stage has been set, and I am willing to walk across it. I am up to the challenge because I am ready for change. I am an American by heart, rejected by the country I love and ostracized by the same society that made me who I am today.

My name is Rolando. I am undocumented and I am no longer afraid.

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments (58)

Showing 1-50 of 58

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-50 of 58

Add a comment

Latest in Fresh Loaf

More by Thomas Wheatley

09/25/2014

Search Events

Search Fresh Loaf

Recent Comments

© 2014 Creative Loafing Atlanta
Powered by Foundation