Vicky Matey and Olga Araceli sit beneath an antler chandelier at the Cabin Tavern in downtown Bellingham, drinks and bright purple on-brand stickers in hand, and pose for a photo. The red light from a neon sign behind them frames their heads like a halo.
“Make sure we look cute,” Matey says.
Matey and Araceli aren’t in this divey bar for pure fun- although they’re definitely having a good time. They’re celebrating the release of their new podcast, A Shot of Truth. In between drinks and selfies, the two are promoting a culmination of their efforts to speak out about a topic close to home- being undocumented.
According to Matey, the two have been giving presentations about their immigration status at Western since 2014. Both were members of Western’s Blue Group, a club dedicated to supporting undocumented students. Although the pair graduated, Araceli in 2017 and Matey in 2018, they’re both still heavily involved in Bellingham’s undocumented community.
In spring of 2018, Western alumni and now-producer Caleb Nelson approached Matey with the idea of starting a podcast. Nelson had always wanted to do a podcast, but was struggling at the time with what he would talk about.
Matey was interested. Shifting from presentations on Whatcom Community College’s campus to producing a podcast would mean her words could reach a much broader community.
“We wanted to use a different platform to send out our message in a way that’s more accessible to other people around the world,” Matey said.
Three episodes in, Matey and Araceli have already laid down a theme of healing, strengthening and diversifying within the undocumented community.
“We hold the power and strength to liberate ourselves,” said Araceli in the first episode of the podcast.
Matey said the pair plan to bring on guests to talk about subjects ranging from international immigration policies to debunking common myths about being undocumented. The two said they’re interested in bringing on guests who don’t fit the stereotypical undocumented archetypes.
“There are a lot of people in our community who are completely left out,” Matey said.
For Araceli, this means reaching out to black and queer undocumented communities whose voices may have been overlooked in favor of more common groups.
“When we think of undocumented folks, it’s more so Latinx people that are tied to being undocumented,” Araceli said.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, more that 45 percent of undocumented immigrants are Latinx, whereas nine percent are black. It’s not specified whether or not a portion of the black undocumented community also identifies as Latinx.
A study done at the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that only 2.7 percent of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. However, sexuality is often underreported in studies.
To represent the undocumented community as a whole, including people of all sexualities and from all corners of the world, Matey and Araceli are opening conversations with their guests. Their plan is to not only break down the stereotypes but to give a more diverse face to a diverse community.
“We want to bring on people that are interested in sharing their opinion and having a voice,” Matey said. “Whoever is interested in being a part of this, we want them to be a part of it.”
Even Araceli’s grandmother, who immigrated to America almost 23 years ago, is interested in being a guest.
“I think that would be a really cool perspective, because she’s a part of the older generation,” Araceli said. “It would be interesting to see how the immigration process has changed since she came here.”
One common myth that Matey and Araceli have tried to debunk is that an undocumented person can never share their immigration status, ever. Matey and Araceli are both fairly open about their status, and believe there isn’t much risk in declaring it openly on a podcast that anyone can access.
“There’s no way that anyone could force us to give them information about who we put on, since we’re producing it and it’s our project,” Matey said.
So far, Matey and Araceli think the process for the podcast has gone pretty well.
“When we have conversations, they’re very open. We laugh a lot,” Matey said. “Even though there are all these burdens that are tied to our identity, we realize that if we weren’t undocumented we probably wouldn’t be as determined, as passionate, as hardworking as we are because that’s what our families ingrained in us.”
The pair, along with Nelson, have already put out three episodes: an introduction, an episode debunking common myths and one discussing DACA. Their podcast can be found on iTunes and Stitcher Radio.