Wednesday, September 15, 2010

DREAM Now Letters to Barack Obama: Gaby Pacheco

by kyledeb Crossposted from Citizen Orange

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. 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 the White House and Congress to step up and pass 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 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 Opinión "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. One 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.

Gaby Pacheco

The "DREAM Now" letter series is inspired by a similar campaign started by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. The letters are produced by Kyle de Beausset at Citizen Orange with the assistance of America's Voice. Every Monday and Wednesday DREAM-eligible youth will publish letters to the President, and each Friday there will be a DREAM Now recap.

Approximately 65,000 undocumented youth graduate from U.S. high schools every year, who could benefit from passage of the DREAM Act. Many undocumented youth are brought to the United States before they can even remember much else, and some don't even realize their undocumented status until they have to get a driver's license, want to join the military, or apply to college. DREAM Act youth are American in every sense of the word -- except on paper. It's been nearly a decade since the DREAM Act was first introduced. If Congress does not act now, another generation of promising young graduates will be relegated to the shadows and blocked from giving back fully to our great nation.

This is what you can do right now to pass the DREAM Act:

1. Sign the DREAM Act Petition
2. Join the DREAM Act Facebook Cause
3. Send a fax in support of the DREAM Act
4. Call your Senator and ask them to pass the DREAM Act now.
5. Email kyle at citizenorange dot com to get more involved

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