This Undocumented Woman Gave Trump His Wall At The RNC

Photographed by Nathaniel Welch/Redux.
Tania Unzueta leads protesters in a chant outside the RNC. The peaceful protest blocked the entrance to the convention center for more than 30 minutes.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Wednesday to build a symbolic wall against Donald Trump. "If it's a wall he wants, we'll give him a wall!" activists and immigrants chanted in English and Spanish as the group stretched a banner across one of the entrances to the Quicken Loans Arena, temporarily blocking access. "No papers, no fear!" "We're going to give Trump his wall, not on the border, but here in Cleveland," said Eva Cardenas, 28, one of the protest's organizers. "I'm here because I have a 10-year-old, and having to deal with someone like Trump for the long term is a scary thing. We want to make sure that we're walling off his hate and standing up as a community." Created in response to Trump's proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration, the symbolic wall was the brainchild of Mijente, Ruckus Society, and several other activist groups. Organizers managed to crowdfund more than $16,000 to bring in caravans of people from across the country and create the canvas "wall," which was held up by activists. Police stood by as the peaceful protest temporarily blocked an entrance to the convention. Among those protesting was Tania Unzueta, a 32-year-old undocumented immigrant from Chicago. Unzueta, a community organizer with Mijente, said she was willing to risk arrest to speak out against Trump's policies. She shared her story of coming to the U.S. and finding a way to make her voice heard with Refinery29.

I’ve been risking arrest for about six years now as an undocumented immigrant. I have found that I have never felt more safe.

Tania Unzueta, Mijente community organizer
Why are you here protesting at the RNC?
"Yesterday, Donald Trump was officially elected as the Republican candidate for the presidency, and we think that he is someone who has put a spotlight on racism and hatred, and it’s really affecting our communities. Today, what we are doing is putting a wall around the RNC, a symbolic wall. The idea is that it’s a bunch of communities coming together to wall off the hatred and the xenophobia that Trump represents." Why is that personally important to you?
"I hope it’s personal to everyone because the policies he is talking about would affect our communities deeply. For me, I’m part of the immigrant community, I am Latina, I’m a woman, and I think a lot of his policies are xenophobic, racist, and anti-woman. I think, on every level of who I am, he represents a group of people and an ideology that have focused on trying to control all of that."
Photographed by Nathaniel Welch/Redux.
Immigrant rights activists protest outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Wednesday.
What is it like to live in the U.S. as an undocumented person?
"I think it has been figuring out how to live as an undocumented immigrant. Now, I feel like I am in a privileged or strong position where I know that there is a community and a movement behind me when I choose to take risks. I think there was a time when I didn’t feel connected to people; I didn’t realize that there were other people who are in the same situation that I am in. "It’s been…growing up and coming to understand what it means to be undocumented in everyday life — whether you can have a social security number, a work permit, what kind of jobs you can apply for — and then adjusting to the changing policies and the changing laws…It’s like a roller coaster and also part of my growing up and coming to be who I am."
Photographed by Nathaniel Welch/Redux.
Protesters join hands as part of the human wall during a protest against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
When and how did your family come to the U.S.?
"We came to the U.S. in 1994 when my dad got offered a job here. They told him that if he came with his family, they would eventually help him fix his immigration documents and his family’s. So we were actually able to get visas, and so I think we are part of the many undocumented immigrants who have overstayed their visas. So, that’s how we became undocumented."

Where is your family from originally?
"Mexico City."
Photographed by Nathaniel Welch/Redux.
Protesters gather outside the RNC.
What are some of the challenges you face in accessing services or opportunities you don’t have because you don’t have documents?
"I think one of the things that has been most present, particularly around election time, is that I have never been able to vote in my life. I was too young when I left Mexico, and I’ve never been able to vote in the U.S. because I am not a citizen. "I’m someone who is very invested in my community and someone who is very involved in organizing around local policies and local government issues in Chicago. I’m obviously someone who is interested in national politics, and so I think that, for me, it’s been finding different ways in which I can participate in the political process even though I can’t vote. Things like building a wall around the RNC is part of how we have had to find ways to get our voices heard as undocumented people."
Have you faced any kind of prejudice or discrimination because of your immigration status?
"I think that it’s weird to talk about discrimination, because it’s this institutional discrimination. When I can’t get a job because I’m undocumented, it’s pretty easy to say it’s because it’s a legal issue. The process isn’t there, you don’t have the papers, you don’t have the numbers. But I think what that’s missing if you’re just looking at the legal processes or whether someone has a certain document — there’s this entire political process missing of why people don’t have documents, why it is that people who come from Mexico don’t have the same ability to become residents or citizens as folks from other countries. "I honestly think having come with a visa is such a privileged thing, because so many others have suffered and risked their lives crossing the border in order to escape the situation that they are in. It’s hard because people can’t tell unless we talk about it, but I have definitely missed a lot of opportunities in my educational life and my political life and in my career because I am undocumented."
Photographed by Nathaniel Welch/Redux.
Activists write the phone number of legal observers on their bodies in case they are arrested while protesting at the RNC.
Are you worried about getting arrested while protesting because you are undocumented? Is that a risk you’re willing to take?
"I’ve been risking arrest for about six years now as an undocumented immigrant. I have found that I have never felt more safe. By being public about my status and by being connected to a community that organizes, it’s one of the safest places to be. We talk a lot about how a safe community is an organized one. "So, sure, there is always the risk. I think that there are other people who are risking arrest here who are also undocumented and have been criminalized in different ways. Yes, being arrested is scary, but I think, honestly, I am not as much scared of deportation as I would be just about how police are treating U.S. citizens and African Americans. I feel like the risk has shifted a little bit in terms of what we are facing."

What do you want other young women to know about undocumented women like you?
"That we are just like them. I think we’re all people; we are all fighting for our dreams and for our families. For me, we are put in a weird situation with this political system, but I hope we can organize together."

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity

More from US News

R29 Original Series