Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Coming out' undocumented is more difficult in some neighborhoods than others

New America Media has an interesting piece via the Alhambra Source that gets at different attitudes about "coming out" with one's immigration status among Latinos and Asian Americans in different parts of Los Angeles.

While revealing that one is undocumented is a difficult conversation to have regardless, as the story relates, the coming-out movement that has grown among young undocumented immigrants has been generally better accepted among Latinos. It's less so among many Asian Americans, for whom going public is regarded differently. From the piece:

Jonathan Perez felt the surprised stares as he ate his Chinese food. The East Los Angeles College student wore a t-shirt with the word "undocumented" emblazoned across his chest in large letters. It's what he is: Since Perez jumped the border at age three fleeing his native Colombia, he has been an undocumented immigrant.

Perez is part of a wave of young people who are choosing to come out about status as a vehicle to empowerment, similar to the way that the gay movement did a generation before. "If we're in the shadows, we're actually more vulnerable," Perez said. "It's easier for you to get deported because you don't have a support network that's organized."

Not everyone agrees with his approach. When he began sharing his status, he noticed a clear divide in the area where he grew up on the border of East Los Angeles and the neighboring more Asian and suburban San Gabriel Valley. In East LA, he says, the shirt got a lively reaction. In Alhambra, where the 24-year-old lived for a few months last year, he says, "people just looked and are shocked." At restaurants, he recalls, customers and employees alike would approach him and ask, "Aren't you afraid?"

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