What Happens When Undocumented Immigrants Who Can’t Vote Talk to Politicians

Thirteen-year-old Yizel Contraras Torres was born in Alabama but now lives in Southern Mississippi. When you hear her speak with her Southern accent, you’d never imagine she doesn’t fit in.

Though Contraras Torres is a U.S. citizen, her parents are undocumented. She doesn’t always feel like her family is welcomed in the state.

“Everyday I have to deal with people that just judge me for how I look, how I act and how I speak,” Contraras Torres says in Here I’ll Stay, a short film Fusion is premiering today.


Population growth in the Mississippi has been relatively slow since 2000, but immigrants have continued to move into the state. There were about 10,000 undocumented immigrants there in 2000, but by 2012 estimates were as high as 25,000, according to the Pew Research Center. And that growth has led to some tension.

Twelve anti-immigrant bills were introduced in the state legislature in 2017, according to Here I’ll Stay.

Earlier this year, just days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Contraras Torres traveled to the state capital with a delegation from the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA) for Civic Engagement Day.

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

There, she shared her experience growing up with parents who are undocumented. She traveled with other undocumented MIRA members who chased down Mississippi legislators to share their questions and concerns. The goal was to ensure the politicians thought of these exchanges when it came time to vote for one of the anti-immigrant bills.

“I’m here to tell you about how things are, because some people don’t know,” Contraras Torres told the crowded room at the capital.


“Here we came and here we’ll stay,” said Contraras Torres.

Watch Here I’ll Stay above.

This film is part of a series from the “Our 100 Days” initiative from Firelight Media and Field of Vision, which explore threats to U.S. democracy and the stories of its most vulnerable communities in the current political climate. New episodes will be released weekly on Thursdays, followed by Twitter chats at 1pm ET under the hashtag #Our100Days.

Senior staff writer

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