On May 28, 2013, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman invited the Omaha South High School boys soccer team to a lunch in honor of their recent state championship. The team decided to use this opportunity to deliver a letter expressing their disappointment in the governor’s decision to not issue driver’s licenses to young undocumented immigrants who have received a temporary reprieve from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. The governor’s decision also prompted the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) to file suit against the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles.
Even though the team indicated in the letter that they were honored by the governor’s invitation, some people are still calling their move brash when they should be calling it brave. How often do regular people get a chance to have a face-to-face meeting with their elected official to discuss important community issues? Very rarely. Even if immigration was not part of the lunch agenda, the boys soccer team had every right to use the event to bring awareness to this issue. In fact, one could argue that it was their responsibility to inform the governor about how his decision affected his constituents. After all, isn’t that what democracy is all about?
These are not the only youth willing to put themselves on the line for immigration reform. Leading up to the 2012 election, it was undocumented youth—performing acts of civil disobedience and traveling the country on what they called the “Undocubus”—who helped bring immigration to the forefront of people’s minds. Their tagline was “No papers, no fears,” and they opened many eyes to the power of Latino youth advocating for social change.
Here at NCLR, we are empowering Latino youth through our Líderes Initiative so they can actively use their voices to enact change in our political system. Our Líderes Congresos are a platform for youth to discuss solutions to issues affecting the Latino community, and our annual Líderes Summit provides them with leadership training. We also get the opportunity to work directly with NCLR Affiliates that empower Latino youth. One such group is the Latin American Coalition in Charlotte, N.C., through which youth like Armando are advocating for immigration reform.
Even with the right training, it takes guts to do something like what the Omaha boys soccer team and Undocubus youth do.
We applaud their bravery and thank them for showing us that sometimes it takes courage to enact social change.