Beyond the Shadows

Beyond the Shadows, empowered by the Movement:
The Power of Solidarity and Hope

As one of the newest members of the Movement, I was excited and a bit afraid to participate in my first Vigil. Having spent all of my life living in the shadows as an undocumented immigrant, I was concerned with the police presence at Ft. Benning due to previous police harassment and arrests.

As a Colombian citizen, I understood the importance of converging and standing up against the oppressive foreign policy that has caused decades of turmoil in my country and in so many others.  That sense of responsibility to my family in Colombia, and to those who continue to feel the impact of the SOA, empowered me to set aside my personal worries and come out of the shadows in order to represent not only those all across Latin America but also the millions of undocumented immigrants in the US who live in fear every day of their lives.  

In preparing for the Vigil, I had the privilege to work with several groups, from religious organizations to student activists, who make the Vigil a success year after year. In getting to know each group, it was easy to see the strength of the Movement and the dedication of everyone involved. The energy and support that these groups provide every year is immeasurable, and I believe that embodies the spirit of the Movement.  Thanks to each participant and the tireless efforts of the organizers, we hosted over 70 workshops and 13 musical groups and had many powerful speakers!

On the first day of the Vigil, my colleagues and I joined with over 300 activists in protesting the dehumanization of migrants and the US’s flawed immigration system in Lumpkin, Georgia, a small, impoverished rural town that is home to the largest private for-profit immigrant detention facility in the United States. We met in front of the courthouse where judges send innocent men to live in inhumane conditions due to their immigration status. From the courthouse we marched over a mile to the detention center. Although we could not see it because it was blocked by a caravan of buses, we could still feel the negative energy it projected. As we heard from a woman whose husband was wrongfully detained for almost a year, tears ran down my face.  She recounted the countless days she worried about her husband being stopped by federal agents while he was just trying to make a living for their family. To be able to stand on the other side, now that I am a DACA recipient (conditionally allowed to live/work in the U.S. through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and share in the same struggle with those inside, fighting for their basic human rights, has made my dedication to the Movement stronger than I ever thought possible.

The Vigil ended with a solemn funeral procession to honor the lives lost due to the violence caused by SOA graduates. As their names were called out, the crowd replied with “Presente!” (“You are here, you are not forgotten!”). It was another emotional moment to hear just some of the many, many names of those who were killed, tortured and disappeared at the hands of SOA soldiers, all while knowing that Colombia has the most graduates of any other country. Throughout the weekend, it was the spirit of hope and resiliency of the crowd that reinforced my faith that we can stop the injustices.We can, AND WE WILL, CLOSE THE SOA! Hasta la justicia!

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