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Troy Jackson

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Fighting for the DREAM

Posted: 06/21/11 11:22 AM ET

I first heard about Bernard Pastor via Facebook, from a former member of my church, who is now teaching English in Japan. The caption on Facebook simply said, "This is crazy!" with a link to a story by Mark Curnutte of the Cincinnati Enquirer. When I read the article, I learned that Bernard is an undocumented son of a pastor in my city of Cincinnati. He was in jail facing deportation because he had gotten in a minor traffic accident.

I got involved because I'm a father of a teenage son, and I am a pastor, and I would want other pastors to get involved if something happened to my son. And I got involved because Bernard's story was real, and local, and I could try to do something about it.

So I wrote blogs for Sojourners, and helped organize a website called prayforbernard.com, and worked to tell Bernard's story as often and to as many people as I could. Thankfully, I was not alone in this struggle.

Many people in Cincinnati got involved. Bernard's classmates from Reading, Ohio, rallied around their friend. The Bernard they know was a star soccer player on the high school team who sang the national anthem before each home match. The Bernard they know was an honor roll student who finished fifth in his graduating class. The Bernard they know was a youth minister and worship leader who shared the love of Jesus through kindness and humor and friendship each and every day.

Soon immigration activists like Nick Torres got involved, as did Leo Pierson and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Immigration attorney David Leopold took Bernard's case. And ultimately, thanks to the hard work of many, and the prayers of many more, Bernard was released from detention and his deportation delayed for a year.

The next 24 hours following Bernard's release were a blur. I joined Bernard, his attorney David Leopold, and Pierson in Washington DC to make one last push for the DREAM Act before the Senate voted the next day.

We got up early and made our way to Ohio Senator Voinovich's office. When we saw him, Voinovich explained that he thought voting for the Dream Act, which he called a good bill, would get in the way of more comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) that could pass next year. Bernard had the courage to tell the Senator, "With all due respect, this is my country as much as it is yours." Nothing more needed to be said.

We made our way to the Senate Galley to watch the vote, as many Senators who had supported the Dream Act in the past voted against it. In the end, by a vote of 55-41, the act failed.

I was one of a handful of supporters who gathered with DREAMers for prayer and a brief press conference afterward. As I stood there, I realized that Senator Voinovich and 40 other Senators had just told these beautiful young men and women that they were not welcomed in the United States.

Just as they vowed that afternoon to keep on fighting for the DREAM, I recommitted to the cause myself.