Story highlights

  • Undocumented immigrants across America are emerging from the shadows
  • Some risk deportation by joining street protests and speaking at news conferences

It was awkward revealing the truth to them, she said. Filled with embarrassment and shame, Lira confessed this week to being an undocumented immigrant.

“I basically told them my whole story,” said Lira, a Tennessee resident who crossed the border from Mexico illegally with her parents when she was 2 years old.

“My biggest fear was (my friends) not wanting to know me anymore but they’re very supportive. They love me and I love them back.”

Across America, some of the country’s more than 11 million undocumented immigrants are emerging from the shadows. They’re declaring their legal status to friends and coworkers. They’re joining a struggle for immigrant rights, educating others like them and risking arrest and deportation by joining streets protests and speaking at news conferences.

Some have strong words for those who see them as criminals worthy of immediate deportation. They were insulted when Donald Trump called some Mexican immigrants “rapists” as he launched his presidential campaign at Trump Tower in New York. They want Americans to view them as neighbors who harbor dreams not far removed from other generations of newcomers to the United States.

“I’ve been living in fear, not only for myself but for my family, for people that I know,” Lira said.

“Fear that my parents will be ripped away from me. That I’ll be ripped away from them. That I’ll be ripped away from the land that I called home for the last 19 years.”

‘I am the definition of being American’

Since his inauguration in January, President Trump’s immigration crackdown has sent waves of uncertainty through immigrant communities. But some undocumented immigrants have been emboldened to join efforts seeking an overhaul of the immigration system.

“I think it’s time for us to be united, to present a strong front, to actually fight for what we want,” Lira said.

Fueling the fear and anger is the fact that the Trump administration’s new enforcement priorities could be applied to virtually every undocumented immigrant in the United States — whereas the Obama administration had focused on serious and violent criminals.

While the new administration has said criminals are a priority, Trump has expanded enforcement powers to potentially deport undocumented immigrants who have lived in their communities for years — and may have family members who are legal US residents or citizens.

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Increased action by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents last month netted nearly 700 arrests nationwide, amplifying anxiety in longtime immigrant enclaves. Earlier this month, immigration agents detained Daniela Vargas, 22, after she publicly criticized the recent spate of federal raids during a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi. She told the story of her father and brother, who were arrested by ICE agents in February.
Vargas also advocated for young people such as herself who were brought to the US as children by their undocumented parents, then qualified for a temporary reprieve from deportation under DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Attorneys for Vargas — whose DACA status expired in November — have filed a petition in federal court asking for her immediate release.
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DACA participants are often called DREAMers, a reference to the DREAM Act. They have a right to work and seek education in the US. The Trump administration left DACA intact.

The DACA protections set up a procedure for verifying the roughly 750,000 participants in the program, including background checks. In exchange, the recipients receive permits to work and seek education in the US, though they do not receive citizenship or legal status.

Lira is nervous about the future despite qualifying for a temporary reprieve from deportation under DACA, she said. Her parents are undocumented.

“I think I am the definition of being American,” she said.

“I’m an immigrant. I work for everything I want. I pay my taxes. A lot of us pay our taxes. We find our way to not do anything illegal. We try to follow all the laws except of course coming to this country illegally.”

‘This is my country, too’

In New Orleans, Louisiana, Jose Lara was facing deportation when he received an unexpected stay after a recent appearance before US immigration authorities. The decision to show up was a difficult one, he said. Other immigrants have been detained and deported after appearing for what they believed were routine meetings with authorities.

Lara and his wife took a risk agreeing to an on-camera interview with CNN. They’re tired of living in fear, they said. They’re both undocumented; their toddler was born in the US.

In two months, Lara must report back to ICE. He previously spent nine months in immigration detention after being picked up during what he said was a traffic stop.

Asked if he had a message for Trump, Lara was quickly cut off by his wife.

“What would he do if he was in our situation?” Valeria Zamora, holding their sleeping toddler in her arms, said of the President. “We cant take the crime in our countries. What would he do if they wanted to deport him and separate him from his family?”

Zamora, who is undocumented and has spent five years in the US, said she would remind Trump of the long days she spent last year clearing out moldy, water-logged homes after massive flooding in Baton Rouge.

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parent container Id of the video element*/function findNextVideo(currentVideoId) {var i,vidObj;if (currentVideoId && jQuery.isArray(currentVideoCollection) && currentVideoCollection.length > 0) {for (i = 0; i 0) {videoEndSlateImpl.showEndSlateForContainer();}}}callbackObj = {onPlayerReady: function (containerId) {CNN.VideoPlayer.reportLoadTime(containerId);CNN.VideoPlayer.handleInitialExpandableVideoState(containerId);CNN.VideoPlayer.handleAdOnCVPVisibilityChange(containerId, CNN.pageVis.isDocumentVisible());if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {var containerClassId = ‘#’ + containerId;if (jQuery(containerClassId).parents(‘.js-pg-rail-tall__head’).length) {videoPinner = new CNN.VideoPinner(containerClassId);videoPinner.init();} else {CNN.VideoPlayer.hideThumbnail(containerId);}}},/** Listen to the metadata event which fires right after the ad ends and the actual video playback begins*/onContentEntryLoad: function(containerId, playerId, contentid, isQueue) {CNN.VideoPlayer.showSpinner(containerId);},onContentMetadata: function (containerId, playerId, metadata, contentId, duration, width, height) {var endSlateLen = jQuery(document.getElementById(containerId)).parent().find(‘.js-video__end-slate’).eq(0).length;CNN.VideoSourceUtils.updateSource(containerId, metadata);if (endSlateLen > 0) {videoEndSlateImpl.fetchAndShowRecommendedVideos(metadata);}},onAdPlay: function (containerId, cvpId, token, mode, id, duration, blockId, adType) {clearTimeout(moveToNextTimeout);if (blockId === 0) {(new Image()).src = “http://traffic.outbrain.com/network/trackpxl?advid=814&action=view”;}CNN.VideoPlayer.hideSpinner(containerId);if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(true);videoPinner.animateDown();}}},onContentPlay: function (containerId, cvpId, event) {var playerInstance,prevVideoId;/** When the video content starts playing, inject analytics data* for Aspen (if enabled) and the companion ad layout* (if it was set when the ad played) should switch back to* epic ad layout. onContentPlay calls updateCompanionLayout* with the ‘restoreEpicAds’ layout to make this switch*/if (CNN.companion && typeof CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout === ‘function’) {CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout(‘restoreEpicAds’);}clearTimeout(moveToNextTimeout);CNN.VideoPlayer.hideSpinner(containerId);if (CNN.VideoPlayer.getLibraryName(containerId) === ‘fave’) {playerInstance = FAVE.player.getInstance(containerId) || null;} else {playerInstance = containerId && window.cnnVideoManager.getPlayerByContainer(containerId).videoInstance.cvp || null;}prevVideoId = (window.jsmd && window.jsmd.v && (window.jsmd.v.eVar18 || window.jsmd.v.eVar4)) || ”;if (playerInstance && typeof playerInstance.reportAnalytics === ‘function’) {if (prevVideoId.length === 0 && document.referrer && document.referrer.search(//videos//) >= 0) {prevVideoId = document.referrer.replace(/^(?:http|https)://[^/]/videos/(.+.w+)(?:/video/playlists/.*)?$/, ‘/video/$1’);if (prevVideoId === document.referrer) {prevVideoId = ”;}}playerInstance.reportAnalytics(‘videoPageData’, {videoCollection: currentVideoCollectionId,videoBranding: CNN.omniture.branding_content_page,templateType: CNN.omniture.template_type,nextVideo: nextVideoId,previousVideo: prevVideoId,referrerType: ”,referrerUrl: document.referrer});}if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(true);videoPinner.animateDown();}}},onContentReplayRequest: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(true);var $endSlate = jQuery(document.getElementById(containerId)).parent().find(‘.js-video__end-slate’).eq(0);if ($endSlate.length > 0) {$endSlate.removeClass(‘video__end-slate–active’).addClass(‘video__end-slate–inactive’);}}}},onContentBegin: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {CNN.VideoPlayer.mutePlayer(containerId);if (CNN.companion && typeof CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout === ‘function’) {CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout(‘removeEpicAds’);}CNN.VideoPlayer.hideSpinner(containerId);clearTimeout(moveToNextTimeout);CNN.VideoSourceUtils.clearSource(containerId);jQuery(document).triggerVideoContentStarted();},onContentComplete: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {if (CNN.companion && typeof CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout === ‘function’) {CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout(‘restoreFreewheel’);}navigateToNextVideo(contentId, containerId);},onContentEnd: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(false);}}},onCVPVisibilityChange: function (containerId, cvpId, visible) {CNN.VideoPlayer.handleAdOnCVPVisibilityChange(containerId, visible);}};if (typeof configObj.context !== ‘string’ || configObj.context.length 0) {configObj.adsection = window.ssid;}CNN.autoPlayVideoExist = (CNN.autoPlayVideoExist === true) ? true : false;CNN.VideoPlayer.getLibrary(configObj, callbackObj, isLivePlayer);});/* videodemanddust is a default feature of the injector */CNN.INJECTOR.scriptComplete(‘videodemanddust’);

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