By Maria-Elena Young, Courtesy of The Curious Ostrich
On Saturday, March 10, youth from across the U.S. left San Francisco to walk in support of the DREAM Act. Their organization is the aptly named Campaign for an American Dream. As Republicans and Democrats vie for presidential votes, these young people will also engage with voters, sharing the stories of their struggles to motivate DREAM Act supporters and to challenge the assumptions of opponents. They will arrive in Washington,D.C. in time for election night in November.
Last weekend, Curious Ostrich bloggers had the opportunity to sit down with Raymi, Jonatan, Lucas and Nico to hear about their plans and motivation for this journey. Over plates of spaghetti and between bites of garlic bread, they discussed everything from their strategy for crossing the Rockies to how they may handle threatening situations. They have been meeting weekly by phone for months with an extensive group of activists from around the nation that are supporting the effort. A legal team is providing them with legal advice and working with local law enforcement in each county they walk through to ensure their protection. A logistics team is coordinating volunteer hosts to provide food and lodging in each town and city they visit. This network of support will allow the walkers to focus on their goal, which is, in their own words: “To create positive, productive dialogue around the passage of the DREAM Act and fairer immigration policies in general.”
They have each put aside their studies, jobs and family responsibilities for the nine month trip. Lucas, one of the first members of the organization, explained by email why they decided to organize this walk: CAD was inspired by the Trail of DREAMs in 2010, which was a walk that took place from Miami, FL to Washington DC. When we came together to discuss the possibilities for the DREAMer movement in a re-election year, we wanted to create a walk on a larger scale that would take us across America. By reaching out to more communities in the nation throughout the West Coast and the Midwest, we can plant the seeds for a real change in America. A change that not only takes place legislatively, but through the public’s hearts and minds.
Despite the challenge ahead, they all displayed a healthy dose of humor, cracking jokes at one another about who would carry who when the going got tough. Between laughs and discussion of their strategy, glimpses also emerged of the sorrow and disappointment of living within the confines of our immigration system and of the challenge ahead of them. Jonatan, a recent college grad from Georgia, had recently spent four weeks in a detention center. Raymi, born in Utah, represents one of the 8.8 million people in the US who are in mixed-status families.
As the walkers made their final preparations this week, news came out of Georgia that the state legislature has moved closer to barring undocumented students from all 60 public colleges and universities (currently, they are barred from the 5 most competitive colleges in the state system). Jonatan shared his thoughts with The Curious Ostrich via email about the developments in his home state:
If Senate Bill 458 becomes law, undocumented students will not be able to attend state colleges even if the students can pay full tuition upfront. This is flat out unacceptable. I am very ashamed that the state of Georgia refuses to see the abundance of bright minds in the undocumented youth. I am not going to sit with my hands crossed, I will make it known that I am walking for the undocumented youth in Georgia and I will not rest until we are able to fight this bill down. I was educated in a public university in Georgia so what does that say about my degree? I think that this is a matter of discrimination to undocumented youth and we are being bullied by lawmakers. This isn’t right.
At the heart of what is so exciting and inspiring about these youth and other young DREAM activists is their resilience and creativity. In the face of the risk of “coming out” as undocumented and the potential for deportation, DREAMers have used creative, direct-action tactics to hold lawmakers accountable and provide each other with support. Just as importantly, young activists such as Raymi, Jonatan, Lucas, and Nico give the American public a human side of the immigration debate.