A woman from Mexico has found her place in Iowa by highlighting two parts of herself. She’s a mom. And she’s undocumented.
Laura Rodriguez is many things. That’s why she hates it when people ask her what she does.
“In Mexico, we don’t ask that. We ask like, ‘how are you doing?'” Rodriguez said. “I think because I was so many things already, and I didn’t really know how to compact them all together.”
But if she has to define what she does in one statement, she says she’s a fashion designer/eco-friendly business owner/activist. But most importantly: she is an undocumented mother. Rodriguez is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, but now lives in Des Moines. She’s been in Iowa for more than ten years. Her mother moved to Marshalltown when Rodriguez was still young. Eventually, Rodriguez and her siblings joined their mother in the United States.
Rodriguez started sharing her story through her new podcast “Undocumented Momhood.” On her first episode, “A Chat With My Kids,” she spoke with her twin 10-year-olds. That episode has already been listened to more than 200 times.
She runs her podcast through the Des Moines-based platform Amplified. It was launched specifically for diverse voices. Her husband, Amner Martinez, is her producer and Amplified was his brainchild.
Rodriguez uses her voice to talk about her perspective as an undocumented mom and how to help other people who share that experience.
“Like, we have to do more. And I think that’s why I take it very seriously. I’m in-between undocumented and DACA recipients, and I’m gonna do whatever for both, whatever it takes. And if that is being outspoken, then I’ll be outspoken,” Rodriguez said. “I believe that even “Undocumented Momhood.” and just being on Amplified is already like a state of rebellion.”
Rodriguez said she wants to put a face on immigration, and warned sometimes her podcast may delve into a mix of “Spanglish,” because English isn’t her first language. She said talking to people about her experiences and her perspectives might help make Iowa an even more welcoming place. She said she wants to learn for people. That way she will bring up all the questions, and other people just have to listen. She said it can be therapeutic.
“Talking about immigration is not easy. And it’s not easy to listen, you know, people have 1,000 questions,” Rodriguez admitted.
She said people usually ask about taxes, but she doesn’t want that to be the first question. She wants it to be more about immigrants as individuals, what their passions are, what they bring to communities.
One of Rodriguez’s many passions is activism. And she is usually outspoken about it, but she said after George Floyd was killed, things shifted a little.
“Things were getting really bad really fast. And I’m undocumented. So then I had to back up for a little bit,” Rodriguez said.
But she didn’t stop entirely. She started donating money she earned from her fashion design work. Rodriguez said sometimes she gets scared, like after Floyd’s death, or if she goes to a politician’s office to protest.
“Other than that, no, like, I’m no longer scared. I live every day, I have to live every day,” Rodriguez said. “If I was scared every day of, like, living, like what kind of life will that be? What kind of life will it be showing the kids?”
Even though she said she is no longer scared, Rodriguez would not necessarily describe herself as courageous.
“I’m very inspired by other people that are 100% out there, you know. So, I think I’m a little bit brave, but I think it’s getting better and better, you know, and I’m getting more brave and more brave,” Rodriguez said.
The new year often comes with brave new resolutions, but Rodriguez is unsure about her own for 2021.
“I don’t know. I mean, I’m super pumped that Biden won, but he wasn’t my first choice. And I think that’s going to be hard to move on to that,” Rodriguez said. “I’m super proud, you know, Kamala Harris is vice president.”
She said this year, there is still a lot the country can do to improve immigration policy to make her and the estimated more than 50,000 undocumented immigrants in Iowa more comfortable and accepted in their homes.