“I don’t think Jesus had a social security number. He was a refugee. He fled from the same circumstances so many people flee today.”
Faith is a huge part of Cesar Virto’s life—it guides him during uncertain times. Cesar was born in Mexico and was brought to Alabama at the age of three. He’s a homeowner, businessman, writer, and Lyft driver. Life in America is all he knows. But when he found out he was undocumented as a young man, life in America became nothing but uncertainty.
“I was sixteen, in driver’s ed class. And the school took me out, saying I wasn’t eligible to get a driver’s license. That’s how I found out I was undocumented. And when I started doing research about being undocumented, I realized that all those dreams had nine numbers—going to college, getting scholarships...all that required a social security number.”
Cesar stayed angry. He rebelled. His grades dropped. “The teachers would ask me why I wasn’t trying, and I would say, ‘Okay, if I try, what happens? I could go to college? No, that’s for white people.’ And that’s it. I just stopped caring.”
Cesar“I get messages from pastors telling me that I’m living in sin, that I shouldn’t be preaching or speaking God's word because I’m undocumented.
After he was caught vandalizing a home with a friend, Cesar caught a break: instead of pressing charges, the homeowners, an older couple, requested that he make things right by helping them with yard work. This led to an unlikely friendship, and soon Cesar was attending church with them. As he puts it: “That’s how I was ushered into Christianity.” He remains a churchgoer today.
His faith has been tested over the years. He has been both supported and reviled by his Christian community: church members chipped in to pay his tuition at a Bible college, whereas others have written him privately to tell him he should return to Mexico. “They would say, ‘Hey, you should just come back in the right way. You’re living in sin.’ That’s my own religion telling me I'm not good enough for it.”
Cesar isn’t cowed. He has gone public with his undocumented all-American story, writing and speaking in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, of which he is a recipient. DACA has allowed Cesar and thousands of others who were brought, undocumented, to the United States by their parents to stay, work, and thrive here—and it could be repealed at any moment.
Cesar fills his daily uncertainty with a kind of forward momentum, speaking regularly about his situation and immigration at churches, if they’ll have him. He’s never forgotten that he, once, was looked after; guided by his faith, he tries to do the same for others. “I don't think God put me in a position so I can look down on my own people,” he says. “My role is to be a bridge between Hispanics and Americans.”
Cesar“I feel like an Alabama football fan. They have season tickets, their man-cave is full of ’Bama stuff, but most of them don’t have an Alabama degree. I have everything American: I have a house, I have a car, a great job, but I just don’t have that diploma—that citizenship.
Neither Cesar nor any other DACA recipient knows what will become of the program or their lives—and homes, and jobs, and families—in America. In the meantime, Cesar finally got his license, allowing him to drive legally. “As soon as I got it, I drove to see a friend in Florida, six hours away, and I just remember just crying like a baby and feeling like all this weight that I was bearing for the longest time was just falling away with every mile.”
Every issue contributing to our current immigration crisis is interconnected. Your stories inspire us to continue to take a stand — when our community of riders and drivers is threatened, we’re encouraged to take action.
In honor of Cesar, we are humbled to support FWD.us — a bipartisan political organization that believes America’s families, communities, and economy thrive when more individuals are able to achieve their full potential. FWD.us advocates to protect the rights of DACA recipients, TPS holders, and DED holders.
Please join us in supporting them.