Meet 16 activists at the front lines of immigration reform

  • Marisa Franco is a #Not1More Deportation campaign organizer in Arizona. “In the political realm, undocumented people have risked a great deal to stop deportations, often times risking their own deportation or risking their livelihood and housing,” she said. “That’s not fearful, that’s courageous, and I think some elected officials should take note and match that courage.”
Read her full story here. 
  • Fernando Lopez is a community organizer with Congress of Day Laborers in New Orleans. “I was detained for a traffic violation in 2011,” Lopez shared. “Ended up in Arpaio’s jail with an ICE hold, and then transferred to ICE, where I was given a $10,500 bond. I really thought it was over for me.”
Read his full story here. 
  • Veronica Isabel Dahlberg (far right), executive director of HOLA Ohio, with Elly Velez Montes (blue shirt) and her family, hours after Montes was released from a four-month detention and nearly deported. “I often feel like a circus performer spinning plates — each deportation case is high-stakes and requires quick action,” she said. 
Read her full story here. 
  • Juan Escalante is an online activist and graduate student in Florida. “Undocumented youth are NOT attached to either political party,” Escalante said. “Politicians who think that they can woo us simply by waving the phantom carrot of immigration reform in front of us are deeply mistaken.” 
Read his full story here. 
  • Cristina Jimenez is the managing director of United We Dream Network in Washington D.C. “Every day of inaction means that 1,100 immigrants will be deported and over 70,000 from now until November, leading to thousands of families torn apart,” she explained. 
Read her full story here. 
  • Alfredo Guiterrez was the former Arizona State Senate majority and minority leader and is a writer. “My concern is the propaganda of our own advocates who have conceded almost every point in order to get comprehensive immigration reform,” he shared. 
Read his full story here. 
  • Carmen Lima is the teenage immigration activist who confronted House Speaker John Boehner about passing immigration reform. “I can’t just stop now,” she said. “People are counting on us.”
Read her full story here. 
  • Michelle Gonzalez is a legal fellow at Immigration Equality in New York City. “The majority of my time is spent advising people who are scared and seeking help because they were violently harmed in their home country because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” she explained. 
Read her full story here. 
  • Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA de Maryland, stands at the center in a gray suit. “We need Americans of all stripes to recognize the dignity of the entire American family — whether they live in Ferguson or El Paso, Texas,” he urged. 
Read his full story here. 
  • Angy Rivera (on the right) is an undocumented youth activist in New York City. “If there were a real comprehensive and humane line to get on, there wouldn’t be about 11 million undocumented immigrants,” she said. 
Read her full story here. 
  • Isabel Josie Anadon is a senior policy analyst with the Latino Policy Forum in Chicago. “Though I’ve been actively and professionally engaged in immigration advocacy since 2006 — I took part in mega-marches held across the country and assisted with May 1 Chicago efforts to turn out more than a million people,” she said. “I fell in love with human rights work while still in elementary school.”
Read her full story here. 
 
  • Yohan Garcia is an immigration advocate in New York City. “Instead of creating a political debate over the border crisis, the president and Congress should enact humanitarian legislation to help those children in need,” he said. “These children are not criminals. Is escaping from crime a criminal offense?”
Read his full story here. 
  • Zoé M. Colón is the executive director of the Hispanic Resource Center in New York. “I have come to realize that no one organization, teacher, volunteer or advocate can do this work for the community,” she said. “The community has to organize itself, build on its assets, determine what it needs, and strengthen the skills for civic engagement to effect policy.”
Read her full story here. 
  • Eddie Carmona is a campaign manager at PICO National Network in Washington D.C.. “From the death of Michael Brown to the inhumane treatment and deportation of Josue Sandoval in Missouri, these are prime examples of what happens to communities of color living under a broken enforcement system,” he said. 
Read his full story here. 
  • Erika Andiola is the co-director of Dream Action Coalition in Arizona. “For those who are undocumented, keep your head up,” she said. “We are humans and we will continue to fight to be treated as that.”
Read her full story here. 
  • Javier H. Valdés is the co-executive director of Make the Road New York. “[My] family experience has guided my work to fight for immigrant rights for more than a decade,” he said. 
Read his full story here. 

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For National Hispanic Heritage month, msnbc.com featured a wide array of Latino activists at the forefront of immigration reform. The series highlighted activists from teenager Carmen Lima, who was just 13 years old when she confronted Speaker of the House John Boehner about pushing immigration legislation, to former Arizona State Sen. Majority leader Alfredo Guiterrez, who has dedicated his life to representing immigrants in Arizona and now considers himself “an old man of the movement.”

In the wide-ranging interviews, activists show that there are many ways to be involved in the immigration reform movement but being fearless is a common denominator across the board. “In the political realm, undocumented people have risked a great deal to stop deportations,” Marisa Franco of #Not1more Deportation Campaign said. “That’s not fearful, that’s courageous, and I think some elected officials should take note and match that courage.”

Whether an undocumented activist or an American activist, there are huge risks to being outspoken in the debate over immigration and even more so in the fight to protect the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. While President Obama and Congress have yet to reach a resolution on the issue, these are 16 activists, among hundreds of others, who continue to provide critical support services, legal aid, and compassion to immigrant communities. 

“I can’t just stop now,” Lima said. “People are counting on us.”

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