Reyna Montoya: Harnessing the power of community

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By admin May 20, 2013 20:07

Reyna Montoya: Harnessing the power of community

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By Taylor Pineda

Reyna Montoya’s story is truly a testament to what an impact community involvement can have over people’s lives.

“After 1,838 signatures and 256 faxes, and after my dad had already spent nine months in detention, our community won a huge victory… ICE finally decided to release my dad on a bond and reunite him with our family.” Reyna said in a statement after her father was released. “This victory for my family is a testament to the power of our movement, standing together as one.”

Reyna Montoya is 22 years old, a member of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, and a graduate from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Transborder Studies as well as a minor in Dance. At 22 years of age, Reyna has proven to all that with enough persistence and time, great change is achievable.

Reyna formerly was an undocumented immigrant entering the United States on a legal tourist visa that expired. Nearly 40 percent of undocumented immigrants today in America enter the country in the same way. It was not until Reyna turned 16 that she began to see the limitations of being undocumented. This was a time when many of her peers were getting drivers licenses, but she couldn’t because of her legal status. However, this did not detour her from seeking higher education.

“When it came to go to college, it was never even a question it was something you were always going to do. It was not a choice, I applied to ASU. I remembered going as a sophomore in high school on a tour, it was my dream university,” Reyna said. She was so excited when she was accepted to the university, but when the finances came to play it was another story; in Arizona undocumented students are required to pay out-of-state tuition. Reyna’s father, who had always supported his daughter’s dreams, was not going to let this obstacle detour his daughter’s successes.

Fortunately, Reyna received a scholarship from the American Dream Fund, a private scholarship. “If I didn’t have my father, who was so persistent and who made sure I was going to be there, I wouldn’t have been there. I think that is also why I double majored to excel as much as I could. I was always taught to help out. My parents always taught me to give your talents back to the community, to always try to be positive,” she said.

Unfortunately, after the passing of the SB 1070 law the Arizona Legislature in 2010, another reality hit for Reyna and her family. Her family had always said not to worry, you are not a criminal. “No one had ever questioned me about my status, but I couldn’t do other things. If I was asked, I wasn’t bothered to say I was undocumented, I knew I was trying to do my best to help my community. I was not ashamed to come out and let people know.”

Reyna received her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status in November, which stopped Reyna from being deported, but could not stop the detainment of her father for an illegal reentry from deportation back in 1996. “The process was very different; they didn’t inform him on what was going on, so he was just being detained,” she said. “When we started to fight the case he was released.  It was really with the efforts of the community and having that hope, and the grace of God.”

So what can people do to help now?

“I think that people need to create awareness and be conscious that it can happen to anyone. We need to stay involved; everyone can contribute and make changes. There is power in an organized community; for example, for my dad’s case it wasn’t for economic reasons. We haven’t had serious conversations about immigration in such a long time, it is exciting to see that there is reform near, and really pass something that will move us in to the right direction,” she said.

“Don’t feel bad if you haven’t been involved, just get involved now,” were Reyna’s closing words.

For more information on, The Arizona Dream Act Coalition visit http://theadac.org/.

 

admin
By admin May 20, 2013 20:07
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