“You can come out of the shadows,” Obama said in his Nov. 20 speech.
“No way,” said Beatriz Meléndez, 32, who has been living without papers in the U.S. since 2005. “If you think I’m coming out, you got another thing coming, presidente.”
Meléndez suffers from severe polymorphous light eruption, so exposure to sunlight causes her to develop painful rashes and blisters. It is unknown how many undocumented immigrants suffer from this condition, but some experts say the number could be as high as 100,000.
“If I go outside, even when it’s overcast, I end up looking like a badly bruised prune,” Meléndez said. “It’s best if I stay out of the light, and remain in the shadows and darkened interiors.”
This is the second time one of Obama’s addresses to immigrants has sparked controversy for lacking inclusiveness. During a 2012 speech about his then-new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, Obama said that undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children were “dreamers” who must be allowed to “keep on dreaming.” The remark was seen as highly insensitive to the estimated 10,000 qualifying immigrants suffering from Charcot-Wilbrand syndrome, a condition marked by visual agnosia that results in the inability to have dreams.