It is a warm Saturday night in Washington, D.C. in Kababji, a Lebanese restaurant owned by a man who just recently became an American citizen.
Inside, dozens who have just arrived from a cross-country trip that began in San Francisco, cheer and indulge in Kabobs. They are ready to join the tens of thousands expected at the National Mall to march on Sunday and demand comprehensive immigration reform.
On the way to the hotel the youth begin playing “I spy with my little eye.” Even the adults jump in. They laugh so hard it’s difficult to believe we’ve just traveled 2,800 miles.
Spirits are high because flights to Washington, D.C. are sold out and because the bus carrying members of PICO, a national network of faith based groups, to Washington has been given a spot at Sunday’s breakfast with the Reform Immigration for American Campaign and six congressmen.
According to Fernando Cibrian, a PICO organizer on the bus, this is a huge accomplishment given the Bay Area sent only one bus compared to the hundreds Illinois sent.
Still, it’s hard to believe how happy they are considering their future is so uncertain. Most are either undocumented or someone in or close to their family is.
Rebecca, for example, grew up thinking she was an American citizen up until the day she asked her dad if she could go to Mexico with her cousins.
She doesn’t want to talk about that day but her father J.T. remembers. His daughter cried uncontrollably when he told her she was actually a Mexican citizen who came to the United States when she was two months old.
Since then Rebecca, 11, has dropped the subject of going to Mexico. But every once in a while she brings up the inevitable question.
“Why are my brothers citizens and I am not?”
J.T. said he doesn’t know how to answer it and that inability is why he decided to travel from Berkeley to Washington, D.C. with her. He had to do something to help change her situation, he said.
“She deserves a chance,” he said holding back tears.
J.T. could also benefit from comprehensive immigration reform. He couldn’t go back to Mexico when his grandparents died or when his brother had open-heart surgery.
He quickly dismisses the idea that he is doing the trip for him too. The trip is about her and he would stop at nothing, he said.
Jasmina, (not her real name) is in a similar situation. She has not seen her mother in 13 years but said she is doing it for her son, Tomas.
Unlike Rebecca, Tomas, 15, who came to the United States at two, has always been aware of his undocumented status. It is just recently that the subject has begun to worry him and her mother even more.
Tomas is a 4.0 student at a high school in Oakland and her mother hopes he can make it to college, she said.
“When they first come here the doors are wide open,” Jasmina said. “But now that he is in high school the doors are closing on him. I wish I knew what was on his mind and change things for him.”
Vanessa, 17, from Life Academy High School in Oakland, said she was offered a scholarship to a private middle school, but had to turn it down because she is undocumented.
For others, like Yesenia, 16, from Oakland, who will give her testimony on the main stage in the rally at the National Mall, she wants her mother to be able to move freely to visit her family in Mexico.
As for Rebecca, who will be the spokesperson for the San Francisco bus, she said she feels really nervous about speaking in front of hundreds from the Reform Immigration for American breakfast. But in a way, this is the moment she is been waiting for a long time, she said.
And now they are here. Now is their moment. I wonder if anyone will be able to sleep.