Sunday: Tulsa volunteers become face of undocumented youths
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Saturday, July 07, 2012
Kasey Hughart grew up in the Tulsa suburbs not knowing a thing about immigration until she passed out scholarship information to a group of fellow Hispanic students at Tulsa Community College.
“Instead of a thank you, I got blank stares around the room,” Hughart said. “I was then told that many members were undocumented.”
A year later, in 2009, Tracey Medina joined TCC’s Hispanic Student Association and heard more about the Dream Act, pending legislation that would allow for immigration relief to a specific group of youths.
“I didn’t know children were undocumented,” Medina said. “I always thought of parents as being undocumented. I just never thought of it that way.”
In the last few years, Hughart, 23, and Medina, 21, have become the face of undocumented youths in Oklahoma, though they are not immigrants.
They appear at rallies and forums. They lobby lawmakers. They hang flyers and host gatherings. They handle media interviews. They know details of immigration law and policy.
They speak for their friends who are afraid to speak for themselves.
“I can’t push this away,” Medina said. “There is too much emotion to it to let it go. The stories of my friends keep me going. If more people knew their stories, they would understand. It would be selfish of me not to anything when I know I can help.”
Unlike other types of volunteerism, this type of social service activism can draw an intense push back.
“They either love us or hate us,” Hughart said. “People come up to us with hate or hostility and assume we will answer back. We don’t do that. They are looking for an argument, not a conversation.”
Lawmakers have literally closed doors in their faces. They’ve been jeered and yelled at during events.
“It made me angry in the beginning,” Medina said. “Now, I go in with a smile. I know we may agree to disagree, and I’ll be back later. We have learned how to approach people.
“If someone wants to be mean and just argue, then they aren’t really interested in what we are saying. When they see we won’t fight back, they usually get bored and go away.”
Read more in Sunday's World.
Tracey Medina (right) and Kasey Hughart are American citizens who have appeared at rallies, lobbied lawmakers and hosted gatherings to help Hispanic immigrants. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World