Standing Up: A first time protester's experience

WaheguruJi Ki Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!


kamal2.jpgImmigration is a matter that affects Punjabi families deeply, yet we as a community don’t want to step out of our comfort zone and protest against these hideous laws and lawmakers. When I first heard about this protest from a Misl Fresno sevadar, I knew I wanted to go and see what it was like, even if it was for a few minutes. I don’t personally know much about the immigration debate, but I do know that in our community there are many families that do suffer because of our current immigration laws.

The protest was being held by the Fresno Immigrant Youth in Action, a group of young and undocumented activists from all over Fresno County. They were all set up in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. This being the first protest I have been to, I didn’t know exactly what to expect and was a bit nervous. But I can say it was a really good experience and I will definitely be coming again. I got to learn so much in the little time I was there. Everyone was so friendly and informative. I learned that the building behind us was the facility where the families are brought after they are picked up by ICE agents. Once inside they are questioned about their citizenship status, and then are held in that building where they have jail like cells and later deported back to their homeland. The rally was to protest against the laws that separate families by deporting immigrant parents of young children born in the United States. This results in these children being alone and fending for themselves. The ramifications of these laws are not limited to Latino families, who were the majority of the protesters, but also to our very own community.

We were standing there on the sidewalk with one of our many signs that said “Support Us Don’t Deport Us,” “Migration Is Beautiful” which had a beautiful stencil picture of a monarch butterfly and many more signs, which called for immigration reform. It was an amazing feeling to know that the Jakara family was out there supporting such a wonderful cause. It made me feel that together we can make a difference and stop such atrocities from happening. As we stood there, as a community, we were all there for the same reason, to stand up for those who, in most cases cannot stand for themselves! 
I remember a Panjabi uncle coming up to us because he recognized a sevadar’s dastaar. He said he worked across the street and was wondering what we were protesting about and we explained to him about the issue of families being deported and taken away from their children. We told the uncle even though the number of Punjabi youth supporters at this event was small, we are trying to acknowledge these events and help such organizations that do protest as much as we can. I remember the uncle being really proud of what we were doing and told us to keep up the good work and that there was a need in our community for such protesters so our fellow brothers and sisters silent voices could be heard. This made me realize it’s the youth that has to take action, not the uncles or aunties, but the youth who have the loud, strong, and powerful voice.

While protesting we said many different chants, one was “Up up with education, down, down with deportation.” One of the organizers there explained to me what the Dream Act was about, and what families have to face just because their only fault was to dream that their families have a better and brighter future that America will be able to give them.
When I first came to the protest I was truly a bit nervous because I was stepping out of my comfort zone since I didn’t bring any friends along or didn’t know exactly who would be there when I showed up. But one thing I do know is that I am really happy that I went out and experienced something so wonderful and something so courageous and all put on by the youth of Fresno. This event truly inspired me and motivated me step out of my comfort zone and attend these protests to support what is right regardless of what the laws say. Even though our numbers as Punjabi protesters are currently small, I hope that one day the streets will be packed with Punjabi youth and so that we can overcome these challenges as one large family!

- Kamaljit Kaur

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