The South End :: A DREAM could become reality
Dayanna Robelledo walked into a Wayne State adviser’s office in the winter of 2009 with a 3.0 GPA from Henry Ford Community College, WSU acceptance papers and hopes to be an elementary teacher. Robelledo left the office with the same lonely feeling she had experienced since coming to the United States when she was 9 years old with her parents – illegally.
Because she was not a legal citizen, Wayne State expected her to pay out-of-state tuition that she could not afford.
“They told me that there were no scholarships available, because I was undocumented,” she said. “They told me there was nothing they could do.”
In the heated debate of immigration reform, the silhouetted child dragged by their mother on immigrants-crossing caution signs that line the southwestern border are often forgotten. some of those brought to this country at a young age say they feel American even though they legally are not.
Margo Cowan, an immigration attorney based in Arizona, described the terror those young immigrants live through during a phone interview in may.
“Every day, (those eligible for the DREAM Act) are removed from this country,” Cowan said.
She talked about students walking home from school, snatched by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and “within hours of being picked up, they are gone,” she said.
But in 2001, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act was brought before Congress. The DREAM Act would offer a path to citizenship to youth brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 if they join the military or go to school and are in good standing with the law.
For those who felt their futures were in limbo, the act “revitalized” them, said Jose Franco, state organizer for the youth-led One Michigan and Detroit resident.
Franco came to this country when he was 2 and soon after found out he was “undocumented,” as he prefers to be called. he said he became depressed over his status and his high school grades suffered.
But when he found out about the DREAM Act, Franco felt he had a new chance at life.
Those who are eligible for citizenship refer to one another as DREAMers and have formed a strong bond with one another both locally and nationally through the Internet.
Franco met Mohammed Abdollahi – an Iranian-born, gay, undocumented immigrant who was arrested in may during a sit-in protest at John McCain’s office in Tucson, Ariz. – and started One Michigan.
Through social networking sites such as MySpace, they were able to network with 5,000 DREAMers from around the country, Franco said.
In the spring, the DREAMers began to increase acts of civil disobedience, rallies and other types of protests all around the country.
When President Barack Obama spoke at the University of Michigan commencement, Franco, Robelledo and a handful of other DREAMers marched for two days from Detroit to Ann Arbor via Michigan Avenue, Franco said.
The closer they were to Ann Arbor, the more DREAMers joined in.
When they arrived at U of M, Franco said they saw Marine One flying low over their heads.
“We know he saw us,” Franco said of the president.
As the president spoke at the Big House, the DREAMers rallied outside.
“My friend’s said they could hear us from inside,” Samantha Nawrocki, an elementary education student at Michigan and a U.S. citizen, said. “They told me later, ‘I bet that’s Samantha.’”
As citizens, she and Alice Reyes of Schoolcraft College, were inspired to join groups such as One Michigan because “it was amazing to see their dedication,” Reyes said.
“The media portrays undocumented immigrants the wrong way right now,” she said. “They are hard workers. (The media) only focuses on crimes.”
They have also performed acts of civil disobedience all across the country.
Besides Abdollahi’s sit-in, Franco took place in a sit-in at Washington D.C. and performed a fake ICE raid on the campus of Ohio State University.
“We are at a critical point where either it passes or it doesn’t,” Franco said.In may, Democrats were trying to pass the act within an entire comprehensive immigration reform bill that had very little chance of passing. Then in midsummer, immigration reform took a back burner to Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court hearings and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Yet Cowan said the DREAMers around the country were not discouraged. she said they were persistent.
“People will continue to press for it until it becomes law,” she said.
Last week, the DREAM Act resurfaced in Congress.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., stuffed the act into an annual defense funding bill and plans on introducing it to the Senate sometime this week.
Jonathon Weinberg, Wayne State law professor who teaches immigration law, said the simple majority votes are available in the Senate to allow the two amendments in the bill. But he does not think there are enough votes to surpass a Republican filibuster.
But filibustering an entire defense bill could make Republicans look bad during a pivotal election year, Weinberg said.
“It will at least be more difficult to say ‘no’ to an entire defense authorization bill,” Weinberg said.
For now, DREAM organizations around the country are doing some lobbying of their own. each website has the phone numbers to senators who have not come out and supported the DREAM Act. And they encourage fellow DREAMers to not stop calling until the senator’s voicemail inbox is full.
One Michigan Detroit has been on the Wayne State campus several times and is targeting Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio. four months ago, they said they performed a mock ICE raid at Ohio State’s most densely populated area, the bowl. To shocked students, they explained afterward what the DREAM Act was through a megaphone and passed out fliers.
Steering clear of public universities
But until the day comes when the DREAM Act is reality, students like Robelledo are steering clear of public universities.
She admits that she has no hard feelings toward WSU, but private universities do not discriminate based on the student’s status.
Franco said that encourages others eligible for the DREAM Act to register at private universities such as University of Detroit Mercy or Marygrove College.
“It just makes more sense for them to go other places,” he said.
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