Juan Moya is a multimedia communication major with a graphic design minor.

Almost a month ago I had the chance to go to Indianapolis with the Social Reform Club for a “Youth Empowerment Summit” hosted by the Indiana Undocumented Youth. For some of us, this was a new and refreshing experience, especially since the empowerment summit had to do with undocumented immigrants, or “illegal aliens.”

This is an ongoing topic in the United States and in many places in the world. While we were there it was very easy to see a crowd of around 40 people from different parts of Indiana ranging from ages of 15-30 years of age. Most of these active youth were undocumented or had some member in their family who was undocumented.

Even more surprisingly, many of the leaders were young girls. It was impressive to listen to the kind of action that these young kids are involved in like public disobedience or forming groups within their communities regarding equal rights for “illegal immigrants.” The Youth Empowerment Summit consisted in making sure the kids knew their rights in the case that they are ever faced with legal authority.The kids were very well informed of their governors and kept insisting through calls to demand for their rights to be heard as human beings.

The summit started at 9 a.m. and it went through 5 p.m. Despite the lack of sleep due to leaving at 5 a.m. to arrive in Indianapolis with a group of Goshen College students and another group from the Indiana Dream Initiative, it was incredible to absorb information. It was also neat to relate in our most human form to some the problems that, through their personal stories, many of these kids would preach amongst the group of 40 people in the meeting.

The kids would share stories regarding how their families got to the United States hoping for a brighter future for their children because of the lack of opportunity and the cycles of poverty in the places they were born. These kids and their families have been excluded from the privileges that many of us may have. Just being a certain ethnicity already gives them a “special treatment” in society through something that seems like clear racism.

Many of the kids’ families have crossed the border, risking their lives and their dignity. Many of their family members have died, been raped or been held in jail for undetermined amounts of time while crossing the border of Life and Death, something known to us outsiders as the Mexico/United States wall.

Many of the kid’s parents and sisters don’t have jobs and if they do, they are likely to be exploited because they don’t have a social security card; therefore it is very easy for their bosses to pay them less than minimum wage and keep them for longer hours. It is hopeful to see the light in the midst of the darkness in these kid’s lives.

For me, these kids have earned every right to be considered human beings. The term “illegal” is derogatory to their dignity and insensitive to their personal and very hurtful experiences that have marked them for the rest of their lives in hope of fighting for a better future – not for themselves but for the ones they love.