'I am Not a Problem That Must be Handled'
The speech that reveals the agony of the sanctuary city bill
By Richard Whittaker,
5:00PM, Tue. May 10, 2011
Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna , D-Houston, just delivered the most powerful speech the Texas House of Representatives has seen in years. Fighting back tears, she not only told her personal story as an immigrant, but showed House Bill 12 – the so-called sanctuary city bill – for the cowardly piece of race-baiting that it is.
HB12, so much of the Republican agenda this session, was hammered through with little debate by the GOP supermajority. Hernandez Luna's personal privilege speech may have served only as a sad afterthought as the bill speeds with undue haste to the Senate: However, we reprint the text in full below:
Mr. Speaker, members, thank you for allowing me this time to speak. I know that HB12 has already passed and in the long run, there was nothing that could be done about its passage. But what is important for me is to express my concerns and why this issue is so important to me. Immigration and all that is encompasses is very personal for me because I was an undocumented immigrant. You may prefer to use the word illegal alien, but I'm not an alien, I am not a problem that must be handled, I'm a human – a person standing before you now as a Representative for the Texas House.
I was born in Reynosa, Mexico and brought to the United States as an infant child with the hope of a life my parents never knew or could dream I might have. My parents along with my sister and I came on a visitor's visa and overstayed our visas. We lived in undocumented status for 8 years until the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was passed under President Ronald Reagan, an icon which I must remind many of you that you state as being one of yours. Under this Act we were able to become Temporary Residents, then Legal Permanent Residents. At age 18, I went through the citizen naturalization process to become a United States citizen.
I still remember my interview with the immigration officer. I was 18 years old, had attended Texas public schools from kindergarten through high school, graduating when I was sixteen years old and was a sophomore in college, yet I was very nervous over the questions that would be asked during the citizen examination. I was so nervous that when asked to name the capitol of the United States, I responded Austin, Texas. The officer re-asked his question name the capitol of the United States, and I then quickly responded Washington, DC.
During the time we lived in undocumented status, I remember the constant fear my family lived with each day. The fear my parents experienced each day as their two little girls went to school, not knowing if there would be an immigration raid that day, and they wouldn't be able to pick up their daughters from school, and not knowing who would take care of them if they were deported.
My parents worked hard to provide a better life for my sister and I. My mother worked the day shift and my father worked the night shift to make sure one of them would always be there for us. The daily task of going to the grocery to buy the food needed to provide your family nourishment may seem like a simple task, but for my family, it was the food we went to buy that might be the death sentence to our family that came in the form of an immigration officer.
As an elementary school student, I remember being embarrassed and shy away whenever my classmates discussed where they were born. I knew I was not a US citizen and feared the reactions from my classmates if they knew I was not a citizen.
Some say that immigrant children are a drain on our public schools, but I don't consider myself a drain. I graduated at age 16 with honors, earned by bachelors and law degree and was elected to the Texas House of Representatives at age 27. I know there are many other immigrants out there like me waiting to be given the opportunity that I was given and part of me believes that the hurt and turmoil I went through is justified in this fact.
My parents never asked for government assistance, they paid their taxes and instilled excellent family values in their two daughters.
I know firsthand the impact that HB12 will have on many families that are currently in the same legal status in which my family once was. I know how this bill will push immigrants into the shadows. Mothers that will be afraid to go to the store to buy groceries for the family, as my mother once was.
Because of my background and the many opportunities afforded to me, it is incumbent upon me to continue fighting to ensure that others can have the America Dream – and let them know that you can make it here if you try and work hard. Even if those elected to serve and protect you don't believe it for you.
Congratulations, GOP. You got your bill. What did everyone else get?