October 8, 2010

Fighting for the American DREAM

Originally published by Beth Wright at New Era News. To read the full article, head there!

We all heard the DREAM Act was stopped in the Senate earlier this fall. Many said, “Damn the Republicans,” others were pleased to crack down on illegal immigrants, but do many really know what this bill means for thousands of youth living in the United States today? I would venture to guess, “no”. That is why I did some research and found a group, VOICE from Boulder, Coloradothat not only understands the bill and immigration policy, but many of the members live within the realities of the predicament they are trying to solve in the first place.

I was fortunate enough to talk with someone involved with VOICE, Karen [last name withheld], who has been living in the United States since she was seven years old. Her family is from Mexico and El Salvador. Her mother illegally crossed into the U.S. when she was only a baby. Karen followed suit by the will of her uncle and grandmother to California six years later. As soon as it was possible she was reunited with her family in Longmont, Colorado.

“I remember my first night in Colorado very clearly. It was snowing,” Karen said. “I had never seen snow before and it was incredible. I had only met my mother once before, and I didn’t know my step father or siblings.”

Soon after her arrival in Colorado, she was put into the third grade at a local elementary school. She knew basic conversational English but was part of the ESL program to catch up with her classmates. She graduated from elementary and had finished most of middle school before moving to a smaller, more conservative town in Colorado. There, she completed middle and high school with exceptional marks in all of her classes.

“My academic councilors were trying to help me find colleges to go to, but I couldn’t accept their help, I just couldn’t tell them about my situation,” she said, speaking of the difficulty of making her situation known.

Her situation being that she was still undocumented. She had spent her entire education in the public education system, but could not continue because her immigration process was still pending.

“I did really well in high school and none of my friends or teachers understood why I wasn’t trying to go to college. All I want is to continue my education, but there are no options for me.”

She did have one opportunity after graduation. Karen was and is a very active member of her church and hopes to lead missions and go to A Christian Missionary University. Her youth pastor said he knew some people at a private Christian school in Denver where he thought there might be hope for Karen to continue her studies.

“I went with him to the school and met the administration. We all had such wonderful conversations, I thought they really liked me,” she remembers.

“I felt like I was finally going to be able to go to school again.”

Her pastor called her a week after their visit and gave her the heartbreaking news that the school felt they couldn’t risk getting in trouble by the government by letting her study with them.

“I couldn’t believe it, if a privately funded Christian school that I had personally met with wouldn’t accept me, who would?”

Karen graduated high school in 2007 and has since been working as a private house cleaner to save up money. Things were going well for a while, but because of the recession she has lost quite a few clients, including two last month.

This is where her involvement with VOICE comes in. VOICE was created by three undocumented young women who were activists for tuition equality in the spring of 2009. The group has acquired both documented and undocumented persons, most of which are young people. Many in the group were brought here as young children and have had a green card pending for years. Since tuition equality didn’t work out, their main goal now is to fight for the DREAM Act.

To read about how they’re going to fight for the DREAM Act, head to New Era News.

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