While hundreds protested at Miami International Airport on Jan. 29, a small group of immigrants and first-generation students gathered at Monica Lázaro’s home in Doral, printing, writing and labeling 600 postcards.
Lázaro, an FIU student majoring in biology, came to the United States from Honduras when she was nine, after gang members threatened her father’s life. They came on a tourist visa. She thought they were coming to visit Disney World.
While her mother worked as a housekeeper and florist, and and her father labored in construction, Lázaro grew up in the shadows.
“We didn’t know what it meant to be undocumented, but we had to follow certain rules. We couldn’t give out our phone numbers, our address, or tell our immigration status to anyone,” she recalls.
Because undocumented immigrants in Florida cannot legally obtain driver’s licenses, just getting around the city was dangerous. Like some 2 million other Floridians, they drove every day without a license.
“We used to play a game where my brothers and I would be the backseat lookouts, keeping an eye out for cops,” she remembers.
But because she grew up in Miami, a city of immigrants, Monica didn’t run up against the limits of her undocumented status until late in high school.
“When everyone was learning to drive, and registering to vote, and going to college, and I couldn’t do any of these things? That’s when it hit me.”
But she disclosed her status to her high school’s college counselor, got into college, and has since been vocal about undocumented students’ rights.
The #HereToStay “postcard party,” as she dubbed it, is her way of dissenting with the executive actions against immigrants and the DACA repeal Trump promised during his campaign (although he’s since toned down that threat). Similar parties are happening across the country.
“At the marches we were making a statement,” she said. “Now we’re working. We’re making things happen.”
She and nearly 25 of her friends ate pizza, chatted – weaving between English and Spanish with finesse – and prepared letters to be mailed to 16 representatives. Her goal: to send 3,000 postcards by the end of the week. They mailed almost 1,500, hosted another party a week later, and have two more planned here in Miami.
“We’re basically bulk-mailing our senators,” she said. “When they see all this bulk mail, they have to say to the president, ‘I got 3,000 letters.’”
Florida Democrats Rep. Alcee Hastings and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts were among the names on the list. Lázaro said she wanted to include both supporters and opponents to DACA on her list to maximize visibility in Washington – they would either be frustrated by the thousands of letters, or use them to prove a point.
Rosalia Montero, 23, came to the U.S. from Cuba via the recently repealed “wet foot, dry foot” policy as a 10-year-old. Last May, she graduated from Georgetown University in Washington and moved back to Miami. She sat on the floor at the party, rhythmically peeling and sticking mailing labels onto cards for hours.
Montero is in no danger – as a Cuban immigrant, she’s in a very different situation than any other Latino immigrants. But she says she’ll do “everything” she can as a citizen to protect undocumented students. The issue is personal. Her best friend could be deported.
“I know I came from Cuba and I have so many privileges and I’m already a U.S. citizen, but I don’t think I’m any more special than any other immigrant,” she said.
Less than half of the people who came to Lázaro’s “postcard party” were born in the United States. They hailed from Nicaragua, Chile, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and China, among others.
If DACA is terminated, Lázaro said, American-educated, American-identifying, productive individuals could be sent to back places that no longer belong to them.
“This is our home,” she said. “I would be a foreigner somewhere else.”
- Lázaro created a how-to kit, including labels, text and a mailing list, to facilitate the replication of her postcard party all across the country. If you want to participate, she can be reached at [email protected]
- Miami-Dade has a variety of confidential and free (or low-cost) services for undocumented families. A few locals compiled a list of organizations which support and aid Miamians of legal and non-legal status.
Editor’s note: We updated this story after publication to keep the postcard count up-to-date.