But this man was able to go to Vieques for the U.S. Navy to get out of there, but he is also this pioneer that no other person has ever done at that level, and challenges the United States on the status of the immigrants in this country, to bring that to the forefront to the capacity that no one else has. I'm proud to say that Luis Gutierrez comes from this community, he used to be our alderman and he supports us. In many respects, Gutierrez best exemplified for them the example of a re-sponsible Puerto Rican advocate. Like Gutierrez, Puerto Rican youths con-fronted other Puerto Ricans who were less than supportive of or outright
) 34 ' ~ Ill NILDA FLORES-GONZALEZ & MICHAEL R0DR1GUEZ-MU1SH~ opposed to undocumented immigrants. However, they were convinced th'lt they were correct in taking a stance in favor of immigration reform, aAd that doing so was essential to the movement. Stressing the electoral effica~y of citizenship, they suggested that citizens and voting power could tip the scales in favor of the immigrant rights movement. (This view, of course, ls not unique to Puerto Rican youth activists.) A widespread sentiment aft~r the first wave of mega-marches was best captured by the movement slogat:), "Today we march, tomorrow we vote." Though some were not of voting ag~, these youth participants actively promoted this perspective and the role thei_r community could playin it; As a result, they embraced their legal status, a11 the while maintaining their social critique of it: They maintained a critiqu.e of citizenship ( that it does not provide universal protections and benefits----... unequal kinds of citizenship). Our argument is that these activists understood and interpreted citizenship as a right that undocumented immigrants should have, but at the same time,held a,criticalview of what citizenship affords f.\-cially subordinate groups, such the case of colonized Puerto Ricans. For these Puerto Rican youths, the undocumented were not being hearc:l, and indeed were silenced by the disregard of the broader U.S. society. Of course, the undocumented were never actually without voice, and through .. out the course of mobilizations they began to assert themselves more openly and quite strongly as undocumented persons (see Pallares, 2010). Although perhaps they somewhat overstated their position, these Puerto Rican partici-pants saw themselves as providing ,a much-needed voice. Though hypercriti-cal of the limits of U.S. citizenship, they felt they were playing an integral role in the movement. They. believed that citizens and non citizens could achieve immigration reform by unifying and demonstrating-their numerical size. At the same time, the presence of citizens provided the movement ,vith some level of protection and a constituency that political elites could not easily dismhs. , , ,, · Conclusum: Finding the points of unity Chicago's immigrant dghts mega"marches set into motion mass. demon-strations throughout the country. Within ,this complic~ted and multifaceted movement, Puerto Rican youth were a vocal subset of all participants.