LatinaLista -- It's been over two months since Latina Lista joined with Citizen Orange and America's Voice to elevate the voices of undocumented students who are fighting to be recognized as Americans.
The "DREAM Now Series: Letters to Barack Obama" is a social media campaign that launched Monday, July 19, to underscore the urgent need to pass the DREAM Act, and ended on Wednesday, September 15, with President Obama declaring his full support for passage of it.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, S. 729, would help tens of thousands of young people, American in all but paperwork, to earn legal status, provided they graduate from U.S. high schools, have good moral character, and complete either two years of college or military service. With broader comprehensive immigration reform stuck in partisan gridlock, the time is now for Congress to step up and pass the DREAM Act!
In this last letter, we learn of an extraordinary young woman, Gaby Pacheco, who illustrates why this country would be on the losing end if she was not allowed to become an American citizen.
(Editor's note: This letter was written before President Obama publicly declared his support of the DREAM Act.)
Dear Mr. President,
I am a member of the first graduating class of Felix Varela Senior High which is located in Miami, Florida. I had attended school with my native-born friends. Like them, I participated in activities, field trips, dances, and felt the pain of losing a classmate.
It was around 10th grade that I realized my future after high school would not be the same as those of my peers even though I worked just as hard to obtain excellent grades. I understood that I was different.
For over ten years I had been in hiding. For days I thought about coming out of the closet. I wanted to tell the whole world who I really was. I thought, "How would this affect the relationships with my friends?" "How would I be judged?" "How will my parents be affected?" I thought about it day and night, hoping that someone would help and wondering about the others, like me, out there.
It took a lot of courage, but one day in 10th grade I told everyone: I was an undocumented immigrant.
My teachers couldn't believe it. Some tried to help me, while others mocked me. I still remember one of my teachers yelling across the room, "Hey Pocahontas, why don't you get married?" Sadly, that is the only pathway to citizenship that ever seemed to be available, even after consultations with prestigious immigration lawyers.
Coming into the light had its benefits.
Once I was out, I was able to explain my situation to college admissions personnel. In fact, there were several other undocumented students at my school who came to me and shared their secret.
One made me promise to help him if I found a way to go to college. One day, I met a Miami Dade College recruiter who helped me enter college. Since then, I've earned three college degrees from MDC, and have represented my alma mater at both local and state levels as the Student Government Association president.
Still, coming out of the closet had its consequences.
On July 26, 2006 there was a raid conducted at 6 a.m. in my home, and my parents and sister where detained. Fortunately, I acted quickly and was able to avoid detention.
At first, I thought it was a mistake -- a coincidence that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had come to my house. It wasn't.
My family had to suffer consequences of my decision to come out and become a human rights and student advocate. ICE hit me where it hurt the most.
Even though my family is still at risk of being deported, I have worked with organizations that fight for immigrant rights and have kept my family close to me. I know I can count on my friends at the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Students Working for Equal Rights, and Miami Dade College to be the support I need in moments of weakness.
Still, Mr. President, you recently told La OpiniÃ³n "I am a strong ally, like none other has been in the Oval office." If that's true than why are immigrant youth like Saad Nabeel still being deported, and why are our families and communities still being torn apart?
Why do so many of us have to live in fear?
What is fear and how do we conquer it? Earlier this year, myself and three other immigrant youth decided to try and conquer our fears by walking 1,500 miles from Maimi to Washington, D.C. in support of the DREAM Act.
On this walk, the Trail of DREAMs, we conquered many fears. We have heard too many cases of people being detained for no apparent reason. Police are interrogating people and asking questions about immigration status because they have entered into 287(g) agreements with ICE, and are now acting as ICE agents.
Once, we were stopped by the police -- something that, in many cities, means potential deportation. Without hesitation, we calmly spoke to the police officer, told him what we were doing, and proudly handed him information about the walk. How did I do it without getting deported?
Well, in part, because we are not alone. We are together in this struggle. We walk often with shirts that say "UNDOCUMENTED," and we do it proudly -- because we are sending an important message: "We are humans too, and we cannot be ignored and exploited anymore."
When we finally arrived in Washington D.C. after months of walking, we tried to meet with you, President Obama, but you refused to do so because we were undocumented. What kind of "strong ally" is this?
It is time that you stepped up for us Mr. President and worked to pass the DREAM Act. It is too late to pass comprehensive immigration reform, this year, but we still have a chance at passing the DREAM Act before the November elections.
The DREAM Act is one step towards just and humane immigration reform. Once we pass it that will empower hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth to start working to better the lives of their family members. That's why it's time that you stepped up to help us make the DREAM Act happen, now.
Tomorrow, you're giving a back to school speech. Why not mention the DREAM Act as an integral component of having a more educated workforce that will contribute to our economy? Or, better yet, mention the tens of thousands of immigrant youth who will not be able to attend college this semester because Congress has failed to pass the DREAM Act.
You made calls to several Republican Senators for comprehensive immigration reform, why not do the same for the DREAM Act? Here in Florida, after months of phone calls, letters, and faxes immigrant youth leaders finally met with Sen. George Lemieux (R-FL) who signaled an openness towards moving forward on the DREAM Act. Why not let him know you're serious about moving the DREAM Act forward this year?
Even better, why not call the Democratic Senators who voted against cloture for the DREAM Act in 2007 -- like Mark Pryor (D-AR), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Max Baucus (D-MT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Kent Conrad (D-ND), and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) -- and ask them to vote in favor of it, this year?
This is the only country we know as our home, Mr. President, and we're not leaving. We are Americans in every sense except for the piece of paper that recognizes us as such. For justice, for human rights, for the economy, for America, please, Mr. President, help us pass the DREAM Act.
CALL IN SUPPORT OF THE DREAM ACT
Ask for the following people and leave a message with their office.
Call-in Script for Republicans:
"Hi I am calling to ask that Senator _______ vote for the DREAM Act. This bill will allow for undocumented youth to fix their status by serving this country in the armed services in addition to allowing for them to return the investment our country has made in them. Please have the member support the dream act."
Sen. Hatch of Utah
Sen. Bunning of Kentucky
Sen. Bennet of Utah
Sen. Gregg of New Hampshire
Sen. Bailey-Hutchison of Texas
Sen. McCain of Arizona
Sen. Voinovich of Ohio
Sen. Snowe of Maine
Sen. Collins of Maine
Sen. LeMeiux of Florida
Sen. Brownback of Kansas
Call-in script for Democrats:
"Hi I am calling to ask that Senator _______ vote in favor of the DREAM Act. This bill will allow for thousands of undocumented youth to fix their status by getting a two year college degree or joining the military. This is an investment in our countries future. Support the DREAM Act."
Sen. Hagan of North Carolina
Sen. Pryor of Arkansas
Sen. Landrieu of Louisiana
Sen. Conrad of North Dakota
Sen. Dorgan of North Dakota
Sen. Nelson of Florida
Sen. Baucus of Montana
Sen. Tester of Montana
Sen. Feinstein of California