It has been labeled as one of the civil rights battles of our time; undocumented youth and their access to higher education and citizenship rights. Our youth felt the pain and know the struggle and decided that enough was enough. One by one they came out of the shadows in national and local coming out events where they proclaimed that they were undocumented but no longer afraid. Their parents watched in fear but with pride as they proclaimed their status at rallies and at presidential debates and events. Our youth are not here to bring fear into the hearts of America, instead we are here to serve. We are here to be doctors, lawyers, journalists, writers, police officers and engineers. We want to give back to a country that has given us so much. Trust me, I would know.
I was undocumented up until my junior year of high school in 1999 and back then, there was no coming out of the shadows. It was all about keeping your head down, working hard and trying to blend in with mainstream. I worked hard because I knew that a college education might not be an option for me, but my parents pushed me every step of the way, explaining that education was the only way to get ahead. I was determined to be a lawyer so that I could help my community and that's exactly what I did. I am now a lawyer and serve as the Digital Strategist for LatinoJustice PRLDEF, one of the premier Latino civil rights organizations in the country. Using the power of the law together with education and advocacy, LatinoJustice PRLDEF protects opportunities for all Latinos to succeed in work and school, fulfill their dreams, and sustain their families and communities. I made it happen for me with the help of my family, countless mentors and supporters but now Obama has finally listened to us and fewer will have to struggle to make their dreams a reality.
Thank you Obama for finally hearing and responding to our youth. For the past 12 years, our DREAM students have been patiently waiting for some form of support from our government. Some students have already aged out and are no longer DREAM eligible, but just as some of us aged out, a new, vivacious and incredible wave of young leadership took over.
The past two years have been heartbreaking, as we watched Congress in 2010 vote down the DREAM Act in a lame duck session. I cried because I knew what that moment had meant to so many of our DREAMers and our families across the nation. Many of us vowed that we would never forget that day and pressed on developing new national and local strategies for our students.
Organizations like the New York State Youth Leadership Council, National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), and DRM Capitol Group fight effortlessly to retain their rights as Americans in this country. They follow both the Obama and Romney campaigns across the country and risk arrest and deportation at their rallies. Most recently, NIYA youth took over the Obama headquarters in my hometown of Denver, Colorado and declared a hunger strike until Obama signed an executive order stopping the deportation of DREAM eligible youth. Additionally, universities across the nation joined the movement by offering instate or lower tuition to undocumented youth. Metropolitan State College of Denver recently announced that they would create a new tuition rate for undocumented students.
Your efforts are not falling upon deaf ears and the movement is about to get louder. This is a
small victory, but still a victory. We cannot rest until we get the DREAM Act passed and a path to
naturalization is created for our DREAMers.
I want to remind you that this is not immunity and it is not amnesty, it is an opportunity where one didn't exist before. If there is one thing that our DREAMers can do is create an opportunity and new possibilities from nothing. We've won the battle but the war is not over. Continue to press on and be fearless, because you've captured the attention of the American public. The world is watching and it yours for the taking. Let's keep making this DREAM come true. Siempre en solidaridad.
Follow Jazmin Chavez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jazminchavez