By Joe Rihn
From Immigrant Youth Coalition’s (IYC) inception, co-founder Jonathan Perez knew his organization needed to be different from other groups providing immigration resources. Most of IYC’s leaders are undocumented and queer, or undocuqueer, and that perspective informs IYC’s approach to activism. Jonathan says IYC made a conscious decision to move away from organizing around the Dream Act, and to focus instead on ending “the criminalization of undocumented and queer people of color.” Through bold protests and powerful organizing tactics, young IYC members have shown their dedication to stopping deportation. According to Jonathan “They’re willing to risk their deportation in order to change the system.”
Jonathan came to the United States from Columbia at the age of four. While his father was able to enter the country legally, the rest of the family, including four older siblings, had to apply for political asylum; a request that is still processing today. “Our paths were a lot different than my dad’s,” he says, “At a young age I started to see how the system worked.”
Being undocumented caused a major turning point in Jonathan’s life when he learned that his older brother’s immigration status made it impossible to attend college. When Jonathan realized he would face the same roadblock he “gave up,” nearly dropping out of high school.