When Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour first came to Arizona in July 2010, she told the audience that other people in the music industry wanted her to boycott Arizona because of SB1070, also known as The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.
At the time of the concert, SB1070 was just a bill but has now since been signed into law. The law obligates Arizona police to pull over anyone of “reasonable suspicion” to determine whether or not they are undocumented by checking for a valid license or other documents.
“We need to be active, we have to actively protest,” Lady Gaga said. “The nature of The Monster Ball is to actively protest prejudice and injustice and that (expletive) that is put on our society as a youth because you’re a superstar no matter who you are, or where you come from and you were born that way. I will not cancel my show, I will yell and I will scream louder, and I will hold you and we will hold each other and we will peacefully protest this state.”
Lady Gaga’s words struck a cord with a certain audience member who was, at the time, coming to terms with being an undocumented high school graduate, and dealing with the struggles of coming out as a gay man.
That audience member was Jerssay Arredondo.
“When she said that, it was a life changing moment,” said Arredondo. “To see all of those people cheering around me, I was super emotional.”
Arredondo was brought to Arizona by his parents when he was three years old, which means he is a ‘dreamer,’ a term that falls under the DREAM Act, providing more pathways to citizenship for children who were brought to the United States with no will of their own.
When he graduated high school at the top of his class he was offered a full ride scholarship to three universities of his choice. Arredondo wasn’t able to accept the scholarship because of social security.
Arredondo said he felt a sense of failure looking at all the hard work he had done and it not mean anything, but after hearing Lady Gaga speak out about being active, he had a revelation.
“I could sit here and cry and feel sorry for myself, but no one’s going to do anything about it.” said Arredondo.
Arredondo is now an active protestor who is part of the Queer Undocumented Immigration Project (QUIP), an organization that represents the gay minority within the immigration community.
Lady Gaga’s song, ‘Americano,’ off of her latest album, ‘Born This Way’ is a blend of mariachi and techno pop that carries controversial lyrics about illegal immigration and gay marriage, some of which are sung in Spanish. With vocal stylings inspired by Edith Piaf, Gaga sings, “I don’t speak your Americano, don’t you try to catch me, living on the edge of the law.” She first debuted the song in Mexico City last year and performed the song in Phoenix this past January.
In an article written by NME Magazine, Gaga said she was inspired by Arizona when she wrote the song.
“The immigration law (SB1070) was passed in Arizona, houses were being raided for immigrants, some of whom had been here for 20 years,” she said. “America was once the land of the free, and now (they’re) telling everyone to get the fuck out.”
Arredondo said it was “refreshing” to see an American internationally known pop singer write a song about this controversial issue. He said even Oprah Winfrey, a woman who “hits every controversial topic there is” never talked about undocumented immigrants on her show.
“She advocates for being together but never really hit what was happening here (in Arizona),” said Arredondo. “It’s really just amazing to me.”