Stories from our community: A reminder of why we do what we do

Every year, the UnidosUS Annual Conference is accompanied by our National Latino Family Expo®. It’s an event for the whole family where we bring together community partners, free health screenings, and entertainment.

In the middle of it all is UnidosUS Central—a space where we have a chance to connect with our community, to explain the work UnidosUS is doing, and to share information about our Affiliate Network and the direct services they provide. And every year we get the chance to hear firsthand from our community, and are reminded of why we do what we do: to fight for our community’s rights, well-being, and opportunity in the United States.

By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Content Specialist, UnidosUS

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The San Diego Convention Center, located at the Marina district, next to the city’s beautiful bay, was home to the two-day UnidosUS expo earlier this month. As you came in to the hall, UnidosUS Central welcomed you—it was an open space where we had kids’ games, photo booths, a video about our organization, and team members talking to guests about the issues we fight for (education, health, economy, and immigration), and also about our Affiliate Network, the nearly 300 community-based organizations throughout the United States that provide direct services to our community.

UnidosUS experts talked to hundreds of visitors, and listened to them as well as they shared their own stories. Below, we compiled a few of those striking stories. Hearing our community’s challenges and worries firsthand was not only a reassurance of the need for the work we are doing, but also a reminder of why we do it: we know the needs, we know our community is under attack, and we are bringing their stories to light. Thank you to our community for opening up to us, and letting us share their stories.

A mother fearful of providing for her son

Amalia Chamorro, UnidosUS Associate Director for Education Policy, met an undocumented mother at the education table who introduced her to her teenage son:

“She shared with me about her fear of enrolling her son (who is a U.S. citizen) in benefits because of the public charge rule. I told her UnidosUS was working hard to push back against this policy and she was so grateful to have our support and to know that we’re advocating for the Latino community. She was willing to overcome her fear to get her son, who is special needs, get the support he needs. I told her she’s a superhero mom for fighting for her son. We all got emotional. It was a good reminder of why we do this work and that the policies we work on affect real people every day.”

A nurse translating for our community

Alberto Gonzalez, UnidosUS Senior Strategist for Health Policy, met a woman who shared her aunt was afraid to continue seeing her doctor to treat her diabetes for fear that she could be deported. Because she wasn’t able to manage her diabetes condition for fear of going to the doctor, her diabetes worsened and ultimately she had to get her leg amputated.

“The woman was appreciative of our work to protect and support Latino health. I also met a nurse at a local cardiologist office. I mentioned that UnidosUS was working to protect health care civil rights under Section 1557 of the ACA, including rights for LEP (Limited English Proficiency) Latinos to seek language access services in health care settings. She mentioned that she is the only Spanish-speaking staff member in her office, and often is pulled into meetings with patients to help them explain their diagnosis and treatment options to take care of their heart health. She recognizes the importance of having translation and interpreter services available in health care settings like doctor’s offices and was appreciative of our work to ensure these rights are protected.”

Giving coMfort to a 7-year-old

Adriana Jaramillo, UnidosUS Program Specialist, heard a heartbreaking story from a 7-year-old boy. He saw Jaramillo was in the immigration table, and he went to ask her: “Can you bring my aunt back? She was deported and I miss her.” Jaramillo, who was very touched by this question, explained to the little boy that there are many people worried about her aunt and working toward bringing her back.

“Really?” he asked.

“Really,” said Jaramillo.

“But like, how many?”

“Thousands of people.”

“Thousands of people?” he asked again, shocked and happy.

Jaramillo nodded, and she knew she gave this child hope and—at least for that moment—alleviated his trauma, a very real effect our children are suffering because of this administration’s family separation policies.

“I also talked to some people that were scared of sharing their stories with me. I asked them if they had any questions in regards to immigration and they would say: ‘Yes, but I don’t think that you could help me.’ Or: ‘Yes, but I don’t think I can do anything about it’ or ‘I don’t know where to go or who to talk to.’ They were reluctant to share what it was that they needed. This gave me the impression that a lot of them did not know who to trust with their delicate cases: they rather stay under the radar since they fear this administration and they’re unsure of what could happen to them, so they prefer not ask for help.”

UnidosUS Central | UnidosUS Annual ConferenceHearing these powerful stories is part of what drives us forward as an organization. UnidosUS will continue to represent the voices of the Hispanic community across the United States and their desire to have a chance at building their own American Dream. Learn more about the issues we are fighting for in the UnidosUS 2020 Issues Platform: A Roadmap for Stronger Communities and a Stronger America.

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