LatinaLista — Next week, it is widely anticipated that the DREAM Act will come up for a vote on the Senate floor as an attached amendment to the Defense Reauthorization bill — IF there are 60 votes to support it.
We urge Congress to do the right thing by these students, put petty politics aside and let their vote be guided by the moral compass that ensures the safety and well-being of all children — regardless of the circumstances.
In yet another example of how deserving are these undocumented students for the DREAM Act to pass, Latina Lista presents a DREAM letter to the President from a young woman named Laura Lopez.
Dear Mr. President,
My name is Laura Lopez and I am an undocumented resident of Napa, California. My parents brought me in 1989 to provide for me the American Dream.
I was a year and eight months old. The plan was that they’d work and I’d study and go to college. Our hard work was supposed to merit us the American Dream. But my merit would be questioned for a lack of legal documentation.
In 7th grade, I joined Talent Search, a community college program promoting higher education. With them, I planned my high school classes based on the track towards the University of California. I worked hard through the Honors courses and passed the Advanced Placements tests.
I completed community service hours with the Honor Society and competed with the dance team in San Diego, Reno, and Disney World. I did it all to get to college. As a senior in high school, I learned of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26: “Higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit”.
I believed it then, and I believe it now.
I merited the acceptance letters and chose Santa Cruz. But my high school counselor and Talent Search mentor did not mention that if you are undocumented, you must file the Assembly Bill 540 Non-resident Tuition Exemption Form or pay out-of-state tuition.
Perhaps it didn’t cross their minds that I could be undocumented and that AB540 was a determinant factor in my American Dream. Although I had lived in the same town for all but a year of my life I could be considered a non-resident student if weren’t for that bill.
If it weren’t for the late Assemblyperson Marco Firebaugh bill, I could not have afforded college; I would not have graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a B.A. in Latin American and Latino Studies, Cum Laude, and a minor in Legal Studies.
But, you may be asking Mr. President, what of life after college as an undocumented graduate with honors? Without a pathway to legalization, no merit of mine seems to matter. I have a great degree with which I could help the ever growing Latino population (citizens, permanent residents, and undocumented folks), but I cannot use it. I cannot get a job.
Don’t get me wrong, I love volunteering because it is necessary, but I need a job.
Folks who demand to ‘do it the legal way’ and ‘wait in line’ process may not realize that I am in line. If the system ran smoothly my wait is 12 years. Due to the application backlog my real wait is more like 18 years. At this pace, another generation will be born and graduate high school before I am eligible for a ‘green card’.
I may be in that line, but I am not willing to wait what seems a lifetime to live my own dreams. I am one of the 21 students who did the sit-in lobbying for the DREAM Act on July 20th. And as Senator Reid’s, Feinstein’s, Menendez’s, Schumer’s, and McCain’s offices as my witnesses, us DREAMers will do all that it takes to pass the DREAM Act Now!
It is urgent the DREAM Act passes because the current immigration system is inefficient. My parents became Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) in September, 2004 and applied for me that December.
You may wonder, Mr. President, why if my parents are residents since 2004 I am not?
I must explain a little of the immigration process. If your parent is at least a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) s/he can petition for you. A United States Citizen sibling can petition for you once s/he turns 21. I am the oldest so I had to wait for my parents to become LPRs. Without a pathway to legalization the petition my parents’ filed for me will be denied.
I’ll be placed into deportation proceedings. Upon this happening, I could qualify for cancellation of removal if I meet the following requirements. One: have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years (check mark). Two: have a good moral character (check mark). And three, and most difficult to prove: my sponsor (parent) would suffer extreme and unusual hardship if I were deported (not likely by immigration standards).
In my family’s case, my parents’ were able to become residents because my sister was born with hypophosphatemic rickets, a condition that requires life-long vitamin supplements and corrective surgery too costly to be done without medical insurance and too extensive and painful to be done without your parents’ support.
Thus, when my parents’ were denied their petition in 1997, the attorney filed for cancellation of removal and was able to prove that my sister would suffer ‘extreme and unusual hardship’ without them.
According to the immigration process, my sister could not petition for me since she was not 21 years old, nor would she ‘suffer’ with my absence. And, so, my parents took the precaution of keeping me out of the petition rather than face the possibility of my deportation at just 10 years old.
So you see, I couldn’t become a resident 10+ years ago and I may not become a resident in 18 years because the immigration system is terribly flawed. I understand that the political climate may not permit for a Comprehensive Immigration Reform, but the DREAM Act is the first step towards creating that right atmosphere.
We all know that merit will be the foundation for Reform as it is already the foundation for the DREAM Act. I merit my residency through the DREAM Act and the DREAM Act is my only hope.
I have met all of the pre-requisites. I have met the requirement of graduating from college. I don’t want my college education to remain idle; I don’t want my future to remain on hold any longer.
I will be celebrating my 23rd birthday in a couple of months. I hope to also celebrate passage of the DREAM Act. It is the only legislation that would allow me to see my life beyond the American Dream my parents foresaw two decades ago.
We all need the DREAM Act Now!
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