Undocumented, Unafraid, Unapologetic

A brief story of pursuing a dream.

As a newly minted high school graduate, I gradually became aware of the struggles that undocumented students face across the nation. I distinctly remember my feelings of anger and disbelief when my friend Camila Hornung was deported in 2007, only to discover a couple of months later that her status was not so different from mine.

My parents came to the United States in 2000. Their hopes were to leave Venezuela’s instability and bring my bothers and me to a country that would provide us with greater opportunities. Needless to say, even though we were diligent in following the laws and attempting to navigate the immigration system, we were given poor advice by an immigration lawyer. And even after thousands of dollars in legal expenses, we found ourselves without a legal presence in the country.

You can imagine that this revelation is not an easy one to take for an 18 year old. It’s like the Earth shifts on its axis and everything gets turned upside down. Your parents forbid you from revealing your status. The colleges of your choice slowly tell you that they can only qualify you for international tuition, an amount that is basically impossible for most people to pay for out of pocket. Your plans for the future and dreams slowly crumble. In some instances, immigrant students give up on continuing their education altogether, seeing no hope in the foreseeable future.

For the majority of us, the largest obstacle is economic; it all comes down to managing to fund an education. Whether it’s by finding donors, qualifying for a scarce amount of private scholarships or getting a job, undocumented students are constantly searching for creative ways to permit them to continue their scholarly pursuits. In my particular case, discovering and eventually becoming a part of DreamActivist.org placed me on the path that would permit me to graduate from a public university in Florida.

DreamActivist.org was the result of several undocumented youths coming together after the failed 2007 Senate vote on the Dream Act. They realized that if the bill was to move forward in future sessions of Congress, immigrant youth would have to play a more active role in the conversation. You may be wondering how it was possible for some of our members to meet each other, given that we are located in various states across the nation and many of us are unable to travel. The answer is one that I am still trying to put into words. An unlikely mix of chat rooms, telephone conversations and a few precious in-person meetings enabled our core team to become familiar with one another, establish our roles and set out our main goals for DreamActivist.org: to pass the Dream Act and pursue the enactment of other forms of legislation to mend the broken immigration system.

DreamActivist.org has a wealth of talented and committed volunteers whom have allowed us to get much further in the push for reform than other organizations with millions in their coffers. By connecting with other undocumented students in the organization’s ten different regional chapters, and sharing our struggles, we identify what we need as well as show each other that there are solutions.

Region two, which encompasses the New York chapter, is currently fighting to pass the New York Dream Act. The New York Dream Act (S.4179) will recognize the contributions of undocumented students in the state. Currently, DreamActivist.org offers an online petition in support of passing the act. Sign the petition at www.action.dreamactivist.org/nydreamact/ to urge Governor Cuomo to support the New York Dream Act.

Without a doubt, society stigmatizes the undocumented. DreamActivist.org seeks to remove stigmas by encouraging immigrant youth to find their voices, demand their full human rights and fulfill their potential. Whether it is by inspiration, support or information, we continually promote and organize. We hand undocumented students the tools they need to become leaders in their communities and organize wider support for the cause. “Undocumented, Unafraid, Unapologetic” is our rallying cry. Whether battling a student’s imminent deportation, calling out false allies or challenging legislators to step up and do what is morally and ethically imperative, DreamActivist.org continually pushes the envelope and promotes equal rights for immigrant youth.

We remain at the forefront by serving as the first action and resource network for undocumented students. We’re a young Web site that continues to provide services and thrive across the immigrant community. We refuse to take a backseat and we demand equal time at the table, because we are neither victims nor poster children.

For more information, visit www.dreamactivist.org.

The New York Dream Act (S.4179) will recognize the contributions of undocumented students in the state. Currently, DreamActivist.org offers an online petition to Governor Cuomo in support of passing the act. To urge him to support the New York Dream Act, sign the petition at www.action.dreamactivist.org/nydreamact/.