By: Erica Lampert ~Staff Writer~
Jose Cabrera, a Dreamer, said that the first time he spoke about his life as an undocumented immigrant he was “tricked.” But last week he shared his story with hundreds at the Enquirer’s One Nation event on Sept. 21.
The theme of the event this year was “American Rights,” and various speakers of different races, genders and sexualities came to talk about their stories and their successes and struggles while trying to exercise their American rights.
Cabrera was one of those speakers. However, his story was a little different from the rest, as he wanted to share his experiences and struggles as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.
Cabrera is a part of a group of young immigrants, known as Dreamers, who were brought illegally into the United States as children.
The name “Dreamer” came from the proposed federal legislation benefit program called the Dream Act.
“I really just talked about my story,” Cabrera said. “It was geared towards coming to Xavier, being undocumented and coming to the United States when I was four.”
For Cabrera, the experience of sharing his story alongside very powerful people was a surreal moment.
He not only got to meet several people who were facing similar struggles when dealing with American Rights, but he also got to hear and experience their stories, too.
“I was speaking alongside some pretty powerful people. We had the president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center come and speak, and we had a pretty big drug dealer from Avondale, Torrance Jones, talk about turning his life around and how he is now helping those in poverty,” Cabrera said.
Nazia Ali, Ken Ham and Ryan Messer were among the other speakers who came to the event to share their stories.
Cabrera never thought that he would be the one to get up and share his story of overcoming his struggles as an undocumented immigrant. His mother was always speaking at events, and he was always the one who just tagged along.
“When I first started telling my story, it was by accident,” Cabrera said. “I was kind of tricked into it. My mom was the one who told her story at events and rallies. It was a normal day for me, going to the rally and listening to my mom speak, but then the director of orientations at the rally told me that he forgot to tell me that I was speaking today.”
Since then, Cabrera has been sharing his story with audiences everywhere. He hopes that doing so will help encourage others who are in the same predicament.
“I was this boy who couldn’t read, who couldn’t write, who couldn’t do simple math, who was dyslexic, who was undocumented and was hanging around gang members. I talk about all these challenges when I share my story, and hope I inspire a boy who is in a worse or similar situation as me,” Cabrera said. “It can get better, and you can do more than you ever expected. If I can do it, you can do it as well.”
Cabrera is currently a full time student at Xavier, studying entrepreneurship and management with minors in psychology and justice and peace studies.
He also works as an Immigration Program Organizer at the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Over-the-Rhine.
He hopes to encourage other undocumented immigrants at Xavier to come out and share their stories and others students to learn as much as they can about immigration.
“We are normal people. We are probably the guy you passed walking to class today. We are just like everyone else,” Cabrera said. “I encourage all of the students and faculty to come out and learn about immigration. Look at the facts, not what people and the media are saying.”