Source: Houston Chronicle
On their first trip to the U.S. Capitol, Adelita and Laura wanted to be heard.
Wearing satin graduation caps and gowns and signs that read “Now what?,” the girls were among more than 60 undocumented students from across the nation who met in Washington, D.C. in April to lobby in support of the DREAM Act.
Before holding a mock graduation ceremony in front of the U.S. Capitol on April 20, students from Rhode Island, New York, California and other states spent their morning delivering mock diplomas with information on the DREAM Act to legislators’ offices.
Afterwards, the students marched toward the U.S. Department of Education voicing statements like “immigration built this nation” and “we pay taxes, give us access” in English, Spanish, Korean and Portuguese.
The Center for Community Change, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting grass-roots community organizations, was responsible for organizing the lobbying activities.
If approved, the Development, Relief and Education for Minors (DREAM) Act would allow undocumented youth to apply for legal residency provided they initially entered the United States before the age of 16 and remained here for at least five years. They must graduate from an American high school or be attending college.
What that means to immigrant students like Adelita and Laura, who both requested their last names not be used, is that they would no longer have to live with the constant fear of being deported mid-semester.
“We do count,” Adelita said about undocumented students.
Laura is working tirelessly to make her dream a reality.
“I want to be a teacher,” said Laura, a Mexican native and Lee High School senior who sometimes works 36 hours a week as a waitress to help her mother pay bills. At one point, she spent her free time cleaning houses with her mother.
“I don’t want to be in a country of opportunities cleaning houses,” she said.
Adelita, 18, a member of the Spring Branch area Amigas Latinas for College; Laura, 20, who handles public relations for Jovenes Inmigrantes por un Futuro Mejor (Young Immigrants for a Better Future); and a third student, Hamilton, who was not available for an interview, represented all undocumented students in Texas.
Both Laura and Adelita were able to travel to the Capitol with money their respective organizations had obtained from fund-raising activities.
No other similar groups exist in the state of Texas.
Jovenes Inmigrantes por un Futuro Mejor’s membership consists of mostly undocumented high school and college students who worked closely with State Rep. Rick Noriega to get Texas House Bill 1403 approved in 2001.
HB 1403 allows undocumented students who have lived in Texas for three years and graduated from a Texas high school to pay in-state tuitions rather than international rates at Texas colleges.
“Before I went to the Capitol, I felt like we (JIFM) were alone; we are not alone, though,” Adelita said.
The most memorable part of the trip for Laura was the sign that hung inside the U.S. Department of Education building.
It made her realize the irony of her situation, Laura said.
“It said ‘no child left behind,’ but we’re getting left behind,” she said.
If approved, the Development, Relief and Education for Minors (DREAM) Act would allow undocumented youth to apply for legal residency provided they initially entered the United States before age 16, have lived here for at least five years, will graduate from an American high school or are attending college.
Who organized it: The Center for Community Change, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting grass-roots community organizations