Julianna Rivera, a current Detroiter, spent most of her childhood in Southwest Detroit where she was raised by her mother Amanda. Julianna received a Bachelors of Arts in History and in Romance Languages with a concentration in Spanish at Wayne State and will be shortly graduating from Wayne State Law School.
At Wayne Law, Julianna has served as the President of the Hispanic Law Students Association (HLSA) and the Symposium Director of the Journal of Law in Society; she has also worked as a Student Attorney in the Wayne Law Asylum & Immigration Law Clinic and as a law clerk at an Immigration Law firm. Julianna, along with fellow Wayne State Law Students, are also currently incorporating a non-profit, called The 313 Project, that hopes to work on legal and social issues affecting the Southwest community.
My dedication to immigrant rights and reform stems from my work and interaction with the immigrant population and from my personal experience as the granddaughter of an immigrant. Most of all, my passion for immigration reform emanates from my belief that I could have been easily brought to this country undocumented or documented and forced to climb an uphill battle in our broken immigration system and therefore, I believe that it is imperative that all immigrants should be treated as fairly and justly as anyone else in the United States.
I care about immigration because I care about people. I have an abiding conviction that my welfare is intimately tied to the welfare of others. Much of my life has been spent as a Christian pastor. Though I have left most parts of that identity behind me, I continue to hold a core belief that each one of us is a part of one whole and that the best way to relate to another is through love and kindness.
As I see it, the positive forms of all the great belief systems (atheism included) share such a commitment to common welfare. I am not interested in living in a world where pure selfishness rules, a world of competition, revenge, and an “us vs. them” mentality.
I believe that our survival as a human race depends on our gaining the ability to live together in and expanding a circle of mutual care and concern. Stephen Covey taught me about the supremacy of mutual understanding and synergy. He taught me that if we work hard enough we could find “win -win” solutions to the most complex problems of our time.
Whether or not it is realistic to believe that our leaders will ever mature enough to seek the common welfare of those in their care, I do not feel I have any choice except to labor for the creation of a just society; to work for inclusion against the human instincts of selfishness, self-destruction, and blame.
It’s not just philosophical for me. I work daily with young people and adults whose lives are a living hell. Every day I see first hand the suffering of people who have fled homes they love in order to make a life, only to find themselves in a country surrounded by inhospitality and hatred. For them and for myself, I will do everything in my power to create a better existence for them and for the rest of my neighbors. If I ever rest to enjoy prosperity while those around me are denied opportunity, I would consider myself a failure. Conversely, if I die trying to make a better world, without ever seeing progress, I will consider my life well lived.
Adonis came from Guanajuato, Mexico to Detroit at the age of nine and has lived here ever since. He graduated from Hope of Detroit Academy middle school, and from Consortium College Preparatory high school, as the class valedictorian. By the time he graduated from high school he already had 24 college credits. Adonis is a student at Wayne State University, majoring in environmental engineering.
You might wonder why an engineering student is so involved in civil rights. As an immigrant from Mexico, I have experienced firsthand the systematic oppression of immigrants from Mexico and Central America. I have noticed that the American economy’s demand for labor goes up and down and attracts immigrants during economic booms but not so much during economic recessions, such as the one we are in now. However, the immigration system disregards this need to allow the free flow of workers according to the demand, causing a jam in the system. I keep hearing so many immigrants that wish to go back home during these hard economic times, but they are afraid of leaving because they have no hope of legalizing their status and they know that crossing the border illegally is becoming more and more dangerous every year. I believe that in a global market where goods and services flow freely, it is necessary for workers to have more freedom following the demand for labor, otherwise pockets of high unemployment will form on one side of the border and growth will slow down or halt in the other side of the border due to the need for workers.
I first felt the lack of opportunities for immigrants like myself, when I started to apply to colleges and universities. I was more qualified than many of my friends to receive scholarships and other forms of financial aid, but due to my status as an undocumented immigrant, I was not eligible for any of these opportunities. Later on, after the approval of the Michigan Civil Rights initiative, I lost the little financial assistance that I was receiving. Then, more recently, policies that directly attacked and oppressed people like myself were adopted throughout several states, like Arizona.
This sequence of events helped me realize that these policies are hurting our communities and preventing hard working individuals like myself from uplifting our neighborhoods and ourselves. They block development and growth for not just immigrants, but America as a whole, by attacking well established communities within America itself. I believe that social disparities that promote oppression will only worsen if these polices are not changed. This is why I became involved in this civil rights cause. Someone has to speak up against this injustices, and if we don’t do it, who will?
A native Michigander, Vivian Chang was born and raised in Okemos, Michigan. She attended Wellesley College, a women’s college, and is now a law student at the University of Michigan. She hopes to work as a public defender upon graduation, and has done academic research on the intersection of criminal and immigration law.
Vivian is a second-generation Taiwanese-American and identifies as a queer person of color.
“If my Taiwanese parents were able to wait patiently in order to immigrate legally, why can’t yours?” Or so the logic goes.
My parents came to Michigan as graduate students, which presupposes that they had the resources to attend college in Taiwan. Once they arrived, one of my aunts served as a sponsor for both of them. They were exceptionally lucky. Not all immigration stories, not even of well-heeled Taiwanese families, are like that.
To say that immigration reform is not an Asian-American issue is to erase an enormous portion of our community, especially those who are not from privileged East Asian families. As a progressive Asian-American activist, I believe it is incumbent on our community to work in support of progressive immigration reform; this is an issue that is ripping our community apart. The immigration debate is not something that Asian-Americans can elect to ignore, either in our capacity as members of the greater Asian-American community or as allies to other communities of color.