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Semana Latina: DREAMers Dare And Hope

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The federal DREAM Act has not been debated in Congress for years. This proposed law, which would permit many undocumented students and soldiers to apply for legal status under certain conditions, does not exist yet. On a state level, it was recently approved in New York, but not funded.

During the recent GOP presidential debates, candidates tried to outdo each other to see who could be more anti-immigrant.

Then, deportations under President Obama hit new and historic records.

But the DREAM Act won't go away.

Right now, thousands of DREAM Act-eligible youth are coming out of the immigration closet. These are individuals who were brought to the country by their parents as infants or as very young children and who consider themselves to be American. And to be patriots.

One of them writes: "Despite the fact that I am undocumented, I still consider this my country."

They are educated, capable and opinionated, and view the multiple attempts to deport them all as a serious injustice. Some of them write using their real identities and advocate for the legislation. Some walk long distances, visiting various immigrant communities and marching to Congress and the White House.

This week the DREAMers Blog Series was inaugurated by HuffPost LatinoVoices, in order to encourage "DREAM Act-eligible youth, leaders, and allies, as well as opponents of the bill" to write about their experiences and opinions. The launching of this series reflects a new stage in this struggle, but has also unveiled a high degree of opposition to these efforts by many Americans.

In her introduction to the series last Monday, HuffPost LatinoVoices contributor and intern Andrea Long-Chavez explained that the series will provide a platform to facilitate improved understanding of this important legislation.

It is, then a unique project in both its scope and its very nature; in its magnitude, because of its ability to reach scores of supporters and opponents; and in its form, because it may spark new dialogue on a topic until now seen by many as only bitter and divisive.

This week HuffPost published the blogs of six DREAMers: Laura E. Enriquez, a UCLA doctoral candidate in sociology; Rosario Quiroz, a member of the New York State Youth Leadership Council; Juan Escalante, the Founder of DreamActivistFL.org; Luis R. Cabrales, an Environmental Advocate recognized by the Obama White House as a "Champion of Change,"http://www.whitehouse.gov/champions/transportation/luis-cabrales ;
Orin Abel , who is working to support his family and is an aspiring graduate student, and Nancy Meza, an intern at the UCLA Dream Resource Center, who has been a widely recognized force in the Southern California immigrant rights movement for years.

These six individuals are united by common backgrounds and a desire to change a reality they consider unjust, as well as by individual courage.

So much so, that one commentator was "certain that this is not this guy's real name. He would be so foolish and would be risking deportation if he told us who he really is..."

Well, these are their real names and personal stories.

"I fully assume [being] undocumented because it is my present reality, one I cannot change given the current system; unafraid because this world cannot continue to operate in a state of fear where we do not trust in each other and instead choose isolation as defense; and unapologetic because my heart deserves better than for me to put on a stoic face and pretend that inside I am not weeping..." wrote Quiroz.

And Meza reminded us of the situation in mixed-status homes; she is the only undocumented person in her family, and all her siblings are U.S-born citizens.

When Cabrales was three years old, "El Otro Lado [the Other Side] was a place where Mexicans were 'imprisoned and their heads are cut off by the gringos.'" Decades later, as an environmental activist he would convince California to phase out a cancer-causing chemical used in the dry cleaning industry, and help increase organ donations in underserved communities.

The blogs also sheds light on less-publicized information. She says that the Obama administration, while publicly advocating for the DREAM Act, has deported 46,000 parents of American citizens between January and June 2011 alone, matching the entire amount of deportations that occurred between 1998 and 2007, as told by Meza.
Or that "undocumented immigrants pay over $600 million in taxes," as indicated by Able, "through property, sales and for some, even personal income taxes."

Escalante criticizes both Republicans and Democrats in Florida for pandering to Latinos and "treating the immigration issue as a political game." Quiroz teases politicians in New York state for failing to implement the recently approved New York DREAM Act.

Readers can additionally see comments to each blog, a majority of which are actually written by opponents to the DREAM Act. But even though participants' opinions may not change after reading the blogs, the tone of their criticism appears to be civil, and debate is possible when the real and human condition of the writer is revealed in the blog.

"We need to end once and for all any talk of any possible amnesty and eliminate all the ambiguity these poor folks must deal with. It is cruel for them not to get on with their lives, planning for their inevitable deportation," said one. Another wrote, "Stop the flow of illegal aliens into our country and every other 'immigration issue' solves itself overnight. See? Easy."

But others replied that "We can't afford a broad brush, deport 'em all mentality. "
"There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of young unauthorized immigrants who can make a difference like you did, if only they have the chance to do it," wrote another in a welcoming tone.

As we are now attempting to do.