SPOTLIGHT ON IMMIGRATION
(Also, check out our 'Spotlight' archive, below!)
Jose Alfonso Villalobos
"Son of Immigrants"
(Image coming soon!)
1) Why did you volunteer to be a book?
When people talk and listen to one another, they easily find common values. As a "privileged" immigrant (this adjective defines me better than "legal"), I can speak for those who cannot.
2) What challenges did you face when you immigrated?
In order to follow the legal immigration process to US, I was separated from my husband for two full years. I remember what a heartbreaking experience that was and I feel humbled by what all the people that come to this country today and who came in the past have had to go through.
3) What surprised you most about the process of becoming an American citizen?
The scrutinizing steps that the DHS takes to vet anyone out that aspires to become a US citizen are very extensive. Nobody should be under the impression that the US immigration process is a simple one. During my application for a Green Card, I could not leave the country without permission from the DHS, and when my father suddenly passed away, I could not be there (in Italy) for his funeral because of that.
The most surprising thing by far was the ceremony of naturalization. At the end of the long process of becoming a citizen, the day comes and you find yourself in a room full of people from all over the world. You look around and think, "What is their story? What brought them here?" I felt a bond with them that I never felt before with a group of complete strangers that looked and sounded so different from one another. Maybe in any other place in the world we would look at each other as odd or foreign, but not here, not in the United States. That day I became American.
4) What can the average person do to help those currently facing such challenges, or worse?
We should always ask ourselves what we could do to help because nothing is too small or insignificant. We all need to remember what the promise of America is. It is such a popular thing now to check our DNA for ancestry and discover all those little percentages of us that come from different places, and we need to listen to that, even when we do not like what we hear. There are so many good people in this country that I feel confident that things will get better. We fell asleep for a while but we are awake now.
I would like to talk about the time my mother was separated from our family.
She came here undocumented and was raising us with our Dad. There were the three of us kids and she was pregnant with my younger brother. The immigration officials came to the house and told her they were all coming with them. She refused to bring us, and said they would stay here. She didn't dare call my Dad who was at work because she knew they would take him as well. She left with them and was detained in Chicago for two days and then put on plane to Texas where they took her on a bus. This bus was filled with nothing but men who all taken as well. Being the only woman, and pregnant, she was concerned with how they were all acting. The guards on the bus kept them all in line, so at least she had going for her. When she made it to the border she still had to pay the toll to cross. My mother had no money so they gave her a dime to cross. She managed to make it back to her home town in the middle of Mexico. She spent a week there then went back to America. She was going to cross the same bridge to get back, but was too afraid to use the bridge. Along with a group of other people, she crossed the river using inner-tubes with the help of a coyote. It was dangerous considering they could be caught or potentially have drown. My mother slipped through her tube and almost got swept away by the current. The coyote helping her grabbed her by the collar just in time. Keep in mind she was still pregnant. Once she crossed she had to get into a semi-truck that was designed to transport people into the country. Of course she made it home and was reunited with all of us. A little while later both my parents got amnesty that was granted during the 80's.
This is one story that doesn't just belong to her, or to my younger brother, or to just her family. This story is for all Americans because if we forget the story of the immigrant we forget why we should treat people humanely. Why we should treat people with dignity and respect. Why we should value freedom for all people, not just freedom for ourselves or the group of people like us. Please remember this when we talk about immigrants.
What's a 'Human Library?' Take a peek at an event that took place at the 2014 Printers Row Lit Fest, compliments of our friends at Human Library Chicago, to get a feel for what we're doing here in the Fox Valley.
Scroll down for more videos!
Follow this link to watch our Human Library presentation at PechaKucha Batavia, August, 2016:
The Human Library of the Fox Valley was featured on BATV!
(scroll down and select 'episode 16')
Climate Justice Jailbird
Q: Why did you choose the title “Climate Justice Jailbird?”
A: While there are many people concerned with climate change, it takes an extra level of commitment to put your body on the line, and risk being jailed, while standing up for something you’re passionate about. I hope that story telling about my experience may inspire others to come forward to take that risk.
Q: Tell us about Al Gore's Climate Reality Leadership Corps. What’s involved? What will your role be?
A: I am very proud to have been selected to attend the training at the end of June, immediately after our Swedish Days event. The Climate Reality Project and the Leadership Corps are led by long-time advocate, Al Gore. My role, once trained, will be to educate others about climate change, the steps we can take to slow the effects of climate change, and to work to help climate change deniers evolve in their understanding of our beautiful planet.
Q: What impacts on the environment are most concerning to you? Why?
A: I think the new onset of climate refugees are the most visible and profound challenges. Small islands are disappearing around the globe including in low income communities right here in the US. I think as someone who lives in the Midwest, I recognize that we ironically are enjoying the benefits of climate changes in terms of less harsh winters and longer growing seasons. But Illinois itself is notorious for it's coal driven energy.
Q: Any future actions planned?
A: To be honest, I am under court supervision until July 28th of this year. I was arrested during a peaceful protest at the BP oil refinery in Whiting Indiana last year. This plant is poisoning Lake Michigan (an essential source of clean water). I must say that I have been enjoying marches and permitted rallies. I look forward to returning to the front lines, especially as our current administration attempts to restart the Keystone XL pipeline, my first risk of arrest. This pipeline had finally been denied by the previous administration and this current President wants to see this large and dangerous line flowing as soon as possible.
Q: How can we (average people) help?
A: Wow, where do I start? Get off of the ComEd grid via renewable energy providers. Unplug unused items. Buy Energy Star appliances, and watch how you set your thermostat. When affordable and available, buy locally sourced foods. Stop using products that hurt our pollinators like RoundUp and other chemicals like glycophosphates. And Recycle. Everything can be recycled somewhere if you are willing to be persistent.