‘The Pledge’ symbol aims to unite supporters of immigration reform

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Giancarla Rojas, a 19-year-old undocumented college student from Virginia.

Giancarla Rojas, a 19-year-old undocumented college student from Virginia, recites the pledge of allegiance in a video released this week. The video features undocumented immigrants, speaking about the meaning of being an American and of pledging allegiance to the American flag. (YouTube/Define American)

As members of Congress go home for the holidays without approving any immigration reform legislation, a new symbol was unveiled this week aimed at uniting undocumented immigrants and their allies for next year’s immigration reform push.

The symbol— dubbed “The Pledge” — is an image of a person’s right hand placed over the heart as if the person were reciting the pledge of allegiance. It was unveiled Monday through Jose Antonio Vargas’ Define American, a campaign he launched two years ago to elevate the conversation on immigration.

“We were looking for a symbol that would unify U.S. citizens and undocumented people,” he told VOXXI. “What better way to do that than through this image of pledging allegiance to the American flag, which is what I’ve been doing since I was in sixth grade when I came to this country.”

Image explaining the meaning behind "The Pledge" symbol.

This photo explains the meaning behind “The Pledge” symbol. (Photo courtesy of Define American)

Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who revealed his undocumented status in an article published June 2011 in The New York Times Magazine. He often describes himself as an “undocumented American.”

Vargas explained that “The Pledge” symbol is part of Define American’s recent efforts to follow in the footsteps of leaders from the African American civil rights movement and LGBT movement. He said both movements were successful in attracting allies from all walks of life.

“To me, this symbol is as much for allies as it is for undocumented immigrants and immigration activists,” he told VOXXI. “We are at this moment now in immigration reform — which I think is one of the defining civil rights movements of our time in this country — where we need to make sure that we are really bringing in new people into the conversation and that we are putting this issue on the consciousness of Americans.”

Video showcases diversity in the immigrant rights movement

Along with the symbol, a short video was also released this week. The video features a diverse group of undocumented immigrants, speaking about the meaning of being an American and of pledging allegiance to the American flag.

Image from Define American's video.

Image from the video. (YouTube/Define American)

“It’s a small, yet meaningful, way to show that I am an American,” Joel Sati, an undocumented immigrant from Kenya, said in the video explaining what the pledge of allegiance means for him.

The video also features Ingrid Vaca, an undocumented mother from Virginia who recently spoke to VOXXI about the power she sees in sharing her story.

Also in the video is Giancarla Rojas, a 19-year-old undocumented college student from Virginia. Like many undocumented immigrants, Rojas has been living in the U.S. for most of her life. She was a child when her family left Bolivia to come live here.

“This is the place where I became who I am,” Rojas said in the video. “This is the place I grew up in, and I understand the meaning of giving, of making a change.”

Image from Define American's video.

Image from the video. (YouTube/Define American)

Rojas is one of the seven undocumented students leading efforts to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities in Virginia. The students recently filed a lawsuit, challenging the state’s policy on college tuition rates that are set by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

Vargas said he wanted the video to showcase the diversity in the immigrant rights movement, so he made sure it included undocumented immigrants of different ages, genders, socioeconomic backgrounds and countries of origin.

He added that he hopes both the video and “The Pledge” symbol will encourage U.S. citizens and legal residents to pressure members of Congress to act on immigration reform legislation in 2014.

“If we are not engaging allies to join the movement then we are not going to get there,” he said.

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