Adrian Naza grew up the oldest son in a middle class latino family in Aurora. Now 19, he’s in his second year of college at the University of Colorado Denver. When his parents were about his age they had just migrated to the United States. Twenty-five years later, they have two sons who are U.S. citizens but no legal status themselves.
Naza’s parents are Rosa and Gustavo.
He shared their first names, and the family’s last name, before the final details of Obama’s action were revealed and long before he can be totally certain that the order, which is expected to impact and estimated 90,000 undocumented Coloradans, will protect his family.
“I spoke with my parents about the visibility issue and they think it’s important for undocumented people to be visible,” he said. “We’ve had this conversation many times. It’s sort of like coming out of the closet for LGBTQ folks. It’s important for people to know who they are.”
The question of who Naza’s parents are — and who any of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States are, for that matter — is about as central to the broader immigration reform debate as you can get. Are they lawbreakers and freeloaders or hardworking community members unfairly relegated to the shadows? Part of his reason to share his family’s story is because, to Naza, it seems so normal.
“When I was younger I didn’t really grasp that our family was undocumented,” Naza remembered. “We lived in a home and my parents paid taxes and it always seemed like we were just another middle class family. It wasn’t until high school that we lost our home and our parents started worrying about deportation.”
Naza’s parents lost well-paying jobs when they couldn’t provide proof of citizenship. Since then, they’ve joined scores of other undocumented people in the United States who support their families by cobbling together odd jobs, what pays beneath the table.
Naza has been constantly worried for his parents, and for his 15-year old brother Daniel, who relies on them.
“I’m fearful they’ll be detained, stopped by police for driving without a license, that they’ll be asked about their status and they won’t know how to reply, how to work through our system,” he said. “That’s really scary for me because I know a lot of people whose parents have been deported.”
After years of fear and frustration, Naza’s life is about glean some sense of belonging. With children who are U.S. citizens, decades on record living and paying taxes in the U.S., and the ability to pass a background check, it’s almost certain his folks will qualify for protection under President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration reform.
“My parents deserve a lot more than they have, a better future than the one they have now,” he said. “The immediate change will be for us to feel safe as a family, to feel like we’re really a part of this country and not just invisible beings roaming around, contributing to the economic system but living in fear.”
[Selfie courtesy of Adrian Naza]