Sunday, March 21, 2010

Young Illegal Immigrants 'Coming Out' in Illinois

Young Illegal Immigrants 'Coming Out' Across U.S.
By The Associated Press
Chicago

Tania Unzueta has kept a secret for more than 10 years and is finally ready to come clean: She's an illegal immigrant.

The 26-year-old University of Illinois at Chicago graduate was among dozens of young illegal immigrants who publicly "came out" during protests Wednesday in several cities. They hope their stories will call attention to the plight of an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. and renew calls for federal reform — even at the risk of deportation.

"It's scary on one hand, but it's also liberating," said Unzueta, of Chicago, one of eight people who disclosed their immigration status at a downtown ceremony. "I feel like I've been hiding for so long."

Several hundred people, many holding American flags and signs that read "Undocumented and Unafraid," observed as each of the eight took the microphone and vowed to continue telling others about their status.

Students took similar approaches Wednesday in Detroit, New York and at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., with more events in the coming weeks in Los Angeles and New York. Some activists dubbed Wednesday a "National Coming Out Day" and quoted gay rights activists, like the late Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials, in their testimonies.

One student group, the New York State Youth Leadership Council , posted an illegal immigrant student's bio and photograph online and a vow to continue adding more.

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