Concerned about the impact the harsh 2010 immigration law Arizona enacted would have, Lucy Gutierrez decided to write a letter to Barack Obama and to her surprise it was not only read but also included in a book of the missives that are said to have made an impact on the president.
"When law SB 1070 was signed, it made me very sad and seeing the news I recalled that there are times when the president reads the letters people send him, (and) I looked on the Internet and found the address of the White House and that was when I decided to write him," the 23-year-old Arizona resident told Efe.
In her letter, this California-born daughter of a Mexican immigrant told Obama how SB 1070 affected Hispanics.
"I told him that this law was going to discriminate against many people and that it was going to open the doors to racism, that it was going to separate many families," said Gutierrez, who has lived in Arizona since she was 15.
She wrote: "I am a U.S. citizen, but I feel like I don't belong here anymore. ... This immigration bill doesn't take effect until July 29th, but to me it feels like it took effect the minute it was signed."
The mother of two sent her letter to Obama in May 2010, after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law. To her surprise, the White House called her a few months later and told her that the president had read her letter and that it had made a big impact on him.
Gutierrez's missive was selected to be included in the book "Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President," in which are collected letters that ordinary people have written to Obama and which went on sale in October.
"For me, it was a surprise that President Obama read my letter. The day I sent it I was full of frustration, I had many feelings against SB 1070 and other laws that are similar to it," she said.
Arizona is a very conservative state, and so it doesn't surprise her that this type of law has cropped up there, she said.
"Unfortunately, there are racist people who say things that offend one as an Hispanic," said Gutierrez, who added that she had suffered discrimination herself on one occasion when she went out to eat with her family and a person complained "because (the restaurant) let Hispanics in."
"We didn't pay any attention to it and tried to continue our day without their remarks bothering us," she said.
A year after SB 1070, the first law in the United States to criminalize the presence of undocumented immigrants, entered into force, Gutierrez says she feels that people "are not talking" about it so much and that things settled down after a federal judge temporarily blocked some of the law's most controversial features.
"SB 1070 opened the doors for other similar laws to be approved in other states," said Gutierrez, who feels that such laws harm Hispanics without regard to their immigration status or whether or not they are U.S. citizens.
"These laws say that people suspected of being undocumented should be arrested, but the physical characteristics that they're using are those of Hispanics, and so they want to arrest you just for being Hispanic," she said.
Gutierrez said that she also wanted to use the letter to tell her children and all Hispanics that they must fight for their rights and not rule out the possibility in the future of writing to the president.