Redmond siblings a dynamic duo fighting for immigration reform

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How Carlos and Jenni Martinez turned off their computers and hit the streets to make a better world.

JenniThis inspiring brother-sister team has been fearless in testifying in front of elected officials and committees. They have led presentations helping people know their rights as citizens — and as people aspiring to citizenship.

Today all their work happens in person — but they first got involved with OneAmerica and the immigrant movement through Facebook. They received an invite to a watch party for the results of the 2010 Dream Act Senate Vote. They felt they were uninformed about the immigration process and they wanted to get involved.

As they got more and more engaged, they started to earn a new nickname: The Dynamic Duo. Carlos and Jenni never said no to any event, and they always found their way around obstacles. Neither sibling drives, but they still manage to trek their way from Redmond to Seattle on a regular basis to participate in forums, meetings, and planning retreats.

Carlos’ inspiration comes from understanding his privilege as an American citizen. That privilege comes with responsibility: Carlos sees his undocumented peers struggle to achieve their potential and access the opportunities that are within easy reach for Carlos. Their stories fuel his drive to push for a solution for our immigration system.

Jenni is destined  to run for office one day. She is younger than Carlos, but her passion–and her ability to inspire everyone who hears her speak — is contagious. She was the one that stepped up to the microphone at one of the Washington State Dream Act Hearings and let the legislators have it for not willing to bring up the legislation for a vote.

In July, The Dynamic Duo participated in an all day fast in support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Earlier this year they traveled to Yakima to attend a statewide training on how to share their stories and take the fight for immigration reform to the next level. In August, they attended a 5-day camp to hone their organizing skills and learned how to use art as a form of protest. Next week, they will participate in a student led Seattle School Board debate in addition to being recognized at the 2013 Colleen Willoughby Youth Civic Education Award Ceremony.

Youth like the Martinezes — and others — worked hard to Keep the Dream Alive and to make their voices heard loud and clear. They helped win a strong bipartisan vote to pass the Dream Act in the State House and are learning the hard way that sometimes lawmakers play politics to block good legislation.

CarlosYouth like Carlos and Jenni are a reminder to us all that it is up to each and every one of us to take a stance on moral issues.

So let’s imagine the world ten years from now, full of Carloses and Jennis.

Let’s imagine that everywhere, people have stood up and spoken out against racism, and fear, and polarization — because they know that to be silent is to be complicit.

Imagine it’s people like Carlos and Jenni who are running for office; who are in the workforce; who are artists, who are our teachers and our mentors. People like Carlos and Jenni who are building bridges across all communities to move toward one America and one world.

This past year Carlos and Jenni have gone from two kids who didn’t really understand immigration to powerful activists and organizers. They’ve learned innumerable lessons — everything from how to get good sleep on a moving bus to how to inspire a restless crowd.

But most importantly they have seen that: “One little person, giving all his or her time to peace, makes news. Many people, giving some of their time, can make history.”- Mildred Norman Ryder, aka Peace Pilgrim.

Let’s join Carlos, Jenni, Yadira and Eddy in making history. Let’s each give a little of our time. Let’s learn to shed our apathy and become civically aware people who build an inclusive community that benefits all. Let’s make history.

Editor’s note: this post is the third in a 3-part series sponsored by OneAmerica, exploring youth civic engagement around immigration. OneAmerica’s youth group was recognized with a 2013 Colleen Willoughby Youth Civic Education award.

Maha Jahshan

Maha has worked extensively with various immigrant and refugee groups in the community, by providing organizing, counseling and tutoring opportunities. She is fluent in Arabic and her experience as a first generation immigrant helps her respect and commit to help in the fight for social, racial and economic justice. She currently is the Lead Organizer & Civic Engagement Coordinator for OneAmerica, Washington State's largest immigrant rights organization, where in addition to helping lead the civic engagement work, she develops and implements the vision for an innovative leadership youth program. She also serves as a women's commissioner in the City of Seattle. Maha's views are her own and don't necessarily represent OneAmerica or the City of Seattle. Follow her on Twitter @mahazja.
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