A group of three students on a cross-country walking tour to raise support for the Federal Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act will call Indianapolis home until Monday in hopes of raising funds and speaking with Indiana legislators.
The DREAM Act would grant legal residency and the chance to become a U.S. citizen to young illegal immigrants, but has failed to pass Congress.
“Anybody can just fly or drive over to Washington, D.C. But this is a commitment,” said Raymi Gutierrez. “By walking we get to reach a lot of small communities along the way.”
The Campaign for an American DREAM < http://thedreamwalk.org/> is made up of three undocumented students: Gutierrez, 23, Jonatan Martinez, 25, and Veronica Gomez, 24.
The campaign began March 10 with eight students in San Francisco who pledged to walk to Washington, D.C. by Nov. 2. Though they’ve lost five group members, Martinez said the remaining three will definitely be making it to Washington.
Along the way, the group recruits members from each state to join. For the past seven days, six students and a professor from Prescott College in Arizona walked with the group to show support.
“Coming from Arizona we see what (the Arizona anti-illegal immigration law) and other laws have done so we feel even more invested and responsible in a sense to support undocumented youth,” said Anita Fernandez, a professor of social justice education at Prescott College.
Fernandez teaches a class on the DREAM Act and educational equality and said she felt joining the campaign would be a positive experience for her students.
Martinez said the group attempted to meet with lawmakers at the Statehouse this morning but was unable to make contact. They will attempt to set up meetings for Monday.
“We wanted to meet with them and talk to them about our experiences,” Martinez said. “We know we’re not gonna change people’s minds overnight, but we may be able to hit their heart.”
Martinez said Indiana is an important stop for the group because of immigration legislation here. A new state law requires public and elementary schools to verify an enrolling students’ citizenship and also allows law enforcement to check a person’s citizenship status if there is reasonable suspicion they are in the country illegally. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this summer has raised doubts about whether parts of the Indiana law can be enforced, however.
The campaign has already met with the Latino Youth Council and will meet with the Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance over the weekend.
On Monday the group will leave for Ohio.