HELP ME REACH MY DREAM!

April 22, 2012

Did you ever Dream when you were little? Dream about being an astronaut? A doctor? An actor? Ever since I was seven years old I dreamt about being a lawyer.  My mom used to tell me I should be a lawyer because I asked too many questions and I was always arguing.

Going to college was the first step to realize my dream.  The first high school counselor I spoke with about college said I should focus on getting a job. As I was getting ready to drop out of school I ended up in the office of another counselor.  She asked me what I wanted to do.  “Go to college,” I said.  Together, we drafted a plan, a path, to Arizona State University.  She believed in me like so many others that helped me along the way.

Learn more about my dream, CLICK HERE!

Advertisements

Alina stepped into the stage displaying a beautiful pattern of white flowers embroidered on her shiny sage-colored dress.  She waved as she walked into a cheering crowd.  Her mother was behind the crowd staring sentimentally from a distance.  She couldn’t step away from the kitchen area for too long.  The locale was decked out in decorations mixing Christmas and roman motifs.  The aroma was of tacos, nachos and the mystery smells of ingredients that make it all taste so delicious.  Twelve other teen girls stood behind Alina smiling.

If this was a quinceanera it would have rivaled any wedding.  But it wasn’t a quinceneara.  Alina is a few years older than fifteen.  She doesn’t own the dress she is wearing.  The food isn’t free and neither was the entrance.  The young women behind Alina are not the damas either.  They are wearing equally stunning quinceaneara dresses.  Alina is, however, the star of this show.  Her friends and family helped her organize a quinceanera dress runway show with one goal in mind—help her raise tuition money for her second year in college.

I was invited to speak at the event, offer some words of inspiration.  In reality, it was to translate into words the inspiration that students like Alina gives me.  And not just Alina, there has been a group that lately has given me much hope and inspiration.

Six years ago I began to feel the world around me shrink.  Every year laws passed that took something away from me: my scholarships, my security, my rights, my friends…Yet every year I feel much richer during the holiday season.  I too have much to be grateful for despite the obstacles I face as Dreamer.  I still have my family together.  I still have a mother whose feats of courage tower above anything I have ever done.

Our stay in the United States was to be temporary.  At only seven years old I was a very confused and angry kid.  Who are these people around me, what are they saying (I hadn’t learned English yet), and where in the world is my mom.  Apparently my mother went straight to work.  One of the few times I did see her at that time was when she told me I would be going to school.  I disliked the idea to say the least.  Going to school meant we were not going anywhere any time soon.  But that’s what my mom said.  You have to learn English.  You have to go to school.

Starting in 2007 going to school became much more difficult.  Proposition 300 passed in Arizona, forcing undocumented students to pay out-of-state tuition (three times as much as in-state), although we and our parents have paid property and sales taxes for years.  Additionally, our merit-based public scholarships were taken away.  This year the Maricopa County Community College District Board (the majority of Dreamers in Arizona live in Maricopa County) voted to increase tuition for Dreamers by over 300% (they also upheld a policy that forces staff to report students to immigration if they apply for what they consider a “benefit”).  This is just one of the challenges that immigrant youth face.  The constant attacks on immigrant students are part of a larger attack on immigrant families that so far has culminated in the passage of SB1070.

This brings me back to the woman standing behind the crowd.  She’s a little over five feet tall, brown hair reaching falling just below her shoulders, with a smile as huge as her daughter’s dress, but brighter.  All night she has been selling food, greeting people, thanking them for coming.  A few months ago she joined a group of immigrant parents called Dream Guardians.  The group, composed of mostly immigrant Mothers, has among their goals to help immigrant youth (many of them their own sons and daughters) attain a higher education.

The goal for tonight: raise money for Alina’s tuition.  And it won’t be the last event of the sort.  There is one scheduled for next month, and the month after that.  Now honestly, the events will not generate a huge sum of money.  Perhaps it will be enough to pay for one semester worth of books; perhaps it will make a dent on a hefty tuition bill.  But that’s not the point.

Laws targeted at immigrant families have created a culture in Arizona the psychological and emotional effects of which have not completely surfaced.  We have, unfortunately, seen at least some of the consequences.  After the passage of SB1070 more and more Latino youth (some born here) are becoming homeless or living with friends.  Dreamers in some parts of the US find their future so dim that they lose hope or, worse, decide that being dead is better than being undocumented.  You may understand why then is it so inspiring to see parents lose their fear and work even harder to give their children a chance.

I have a feeling that although Dreamers thus far have been the face of our movement for immigrant and human rights, there are non-Dreamers out there fighting for their stories to be heard.  They will find the courage to speak up as I have seen the parents in Dream Guardians speak out.  They will come out as workers and parents.

One day I’ll find the time to write more about Dream Guardians.  For now, I didn’t want to let the holiday season pass without saying to them: Thank you!

Dream Guardians represents all of our parents; those that speak in front of crowds as well as those who stand behind the crowd.  They represent my Mother, who has always supported my education and now is part of Dream Guardians to help other mothers support the education of their children.

           This holiday season please join me in sending a thank you note to these amazing parents!

Dream Guardians

PO BOX 67791

Phoenix, AZ 85082

Click HERE to find out more about Dream Guardians.

Now and then in the history of this great nation its citizens are forced to face a choice between the country that we were, the country that we are, and the country which we seek to be.  An American phantasm has re-appeared to reflect the injustice and inhumanity of an immigration system that leaves America broken

            The sound of the shot was loud and acute.  Although it could have been from the violent and gruesome games that children play now a day, it was surely an irregular and deafening sound exploding in the middle of a quiet home one night after thanksgiving.  He ran into the restroom where his little brother walked into only minutes after kissing his parents.  He dragged his little brother out of the restroom into the kitchen, blood dripping from his little brother’s suit and tie unto the kitchen floor. What happens to a dream deferred?

Joaquin Luna was 18 years old; a senior at Juarez Lincoln High in Mission, Texas.  He left letters behind, like so many youth do after committing suicide.  Some of them write about being bullied for being gay, some of them write about something that happened to them and were too ashamed to live with.  Some ask for forgiveness, and others just ask questions.  What happens to the dreamer?

Now we must stop a Moral Race to the Bottom.  An “other countries treat them worse” approach to immigration reform is repugnant to the values that make this country the best in the world.  Where is America the moral leader?  We cannot lead on a moral stage when our streets are filled with terror and the ugly separation of families.  We cannot be great when we decide to do what is easiest instead of what is right

            Joaquin Luna believed it was better dead than to be undocumented.  Yes, he wrote about the failure of the Dream Act and the bleak opportunities he had of continuing his education.  I will not, however, reduce his death to a mere political jab against those that voted against the Dream Act in 2010.  Joaquin Lunas’ death, like the death of many other Dreamers that have committed suicide, speaks to an issue bigger than the Dream Act.

Even in the face of record-breaking deportations by the Obama Administration, expansion of the failed (In) Secure Communities Program and Arizona copy-cat legislation across the nation, it wasn’t deportation that Joaquin feared.  “He was saying he was going to do this because he wasn’t going to be able to continue with his college.”  Even though Texas is considered a moderately friendly state towards immigrant youth (providing in-state tuition), Joaquin’s greatest fear was being unable to achieve his dream of being an engineer.

Our families have seen things that might break you, rattle and make you, wonder why the heck this is called the land of opportunity, the land of the free and the home of the brave.  It is us.  Is the vision that we paint, the question that we pose, of the Nation that we are and the nation that we could be.

            For all Dreamers that have contemplated suicide:  even though I don’t know you, I love you.  Even though I don’t ride in the same car or go to the same school, I feel your fear.  Even though we sleep in different streets, we have a common dream.  Even though you are not here with me, you are not alone.  We are not alone.  I too, am Joaquin.

Our minds have felt beat and sore, but our soul keeps commanding it off the floor and says keep marching on, keep dreaming, keep demanding a chance for more, keep sailing these storms for shore.      

 I could have been that big brother, holding my sister in my arms.  We have to give them hope.  If you’re a sister, if you’re a friend, if you’re a pastor, if you’re a teacher, we have to give them hope.  I fight because I know if I fight I will not be alone.  And when I fight I fight with hope, because with hope I know we can win.

In memory of Joaquin and all the Dreamers no longer with us:  Give them hope, give them love, these are still benefits that do not require a 9-digit number.

For more information on Joaquin Luna, CLICK HERE

For more information about the Dream Act and the vigil for Joaquin and Dreamers organized by the Arizona Dream Act Coalition being held Friday December 2nd, 2011, check out — http://www.theadac.org

The Maricopa Community Colleges have tripled the tuition per credit hour for immigrant youth.  The current tuition rate for non-residents in the Maricopa Community Colleges is $96 per credit.  This made it possible for organizations like the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition to advise students to take one or two classes at the community colleges for just under $600, at least until the DREAM Act passed.  The new tuition rate for non-residents is $317, meaning students would have to pay $1,000 for just one class.

Call it drop-out through tuition hike.  Enrollment of immigrant youth in higher education institutions is dramatically decreasing.  While immigrant youth are legally able to attend colleges and universities, the rise of tuition is becoming unreachable for immigrant youth.  In 2006, Arizona voters passed Prop 300, which forced immigrant youth to pay out-of-state tuition while denying them the ability to apply for merit-based public scholarships.  Students that can’t afford a full schedule in a community college have usually opted for a part-time schedule of about 6 credit hours.  The option to continue their education with a part-time but more affordable schedule is soon disappearing.

Although immigrant youth find it harder then their peers to continue their education, it is not just immigrant youth affected by state-wide tuition hikes.  Arizona State University students created a group called Stop Education Exploitation to organize against tuition hikes.  Students will hopefully figure out that this attack on education is on ALL students, just like the attack on immigrants is against ALL working-class Americans.  Common targets make for good partnerships.  Unity is key.

The Maricopa Community College Board needs to hear from students affected.  The next board meeting is April 26, 2011.  The public will be able to speak.

Quick video I took of America Ferrera expressing her support for the DREAM Act and encouraging the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition to keep fighting:

Do you like my blog?
Please take 1 minute to vote for me to get a scholarship to attend Netroots Nation!

Click Below!

http://www.democracyforamerica.com/netroots_nation_scholarships/1183-daniel-rodriguez

 

Do you like my blog?
Please take 1 minute to vote for me to get a scholarship to attend Netroots Nation!

Click Below!

http://www.democracyforamerica.com/netroots_nation_scholarships/1183-daniel-rodriguez

 

Transplanted

March 18, 2011

My name is Daniel.  I am a transplanted student living in Phoenix, Arizona.  I say transplanted because I am like a plant shining in the hot desert summer.  I have been placed in one spot but my long brown roots are in many places.

I have roots in Toltec, in the fertile land of my ancestors.

I have roots in Monterrey, where I was born north of the Santa Catarina, which like justice is always flowing if not always visible.

I have roots in the transcontinental tracks of Sacramento, California that made it possible for the United States to become an industrial powerhouse.

I have roots in the fields of Oregon where farmhands made it possible for the United States to win World War II.

My roots are strong and form a network where art, science, and stories coexist to generate a multidisciplinary conscious that keeps alive the spirit of Student Resistance.

I need to have long roots if I want to survive in this desert.  I must remember my roots lest I dry and wither away.  I say transplanted because I am unafraid to say I am not undocumented.

I am documented in the Honor Roll certificates given to me for excellence in Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic in elementary school.

I am documented in the diploma I received upon graduating from high school, and the dozens of merit-based scholarships I received to continue my education.

I am documented in my English Literature and Political Science Degree.

I am documented in the law school education I’ve received thus far.

I have my papers.

My name is Daniel. I am a transplanted student living in Phoenix, Arizona.  I have the love of a family that works with dignity.  I am human.  I can do more.  I have the power of immigrant youth that will not live in fear.  I am a student.  I have the strength of the past, the anger of the present, and the vision of the future.

DREAM Army in Washington, D.C.

 

Fast for our Dreams in Front of Senator McCain’s Office

 

DREAM Act Rally at Arizona State University

 


For up-to-date information on the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition: 1) Find us on Facebook 2) Subscribe to our newsletter

To Subscribe or Unsubscribe to this newsletter please e-mail: adacnewsletter@gmail.com.  Insert in the subject line “Subscribe” or “Unsubscribe”

On Friday November 19, 2010, members of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition went to ICE headquarters in downtown Phoenix.  Opponents of immigration have the misconception that there is a “line” for people to get in.  As DREAM Act students proved on Friday, there is no actual “line” leading to a proper procedure of legalization.  Upon arriving to ICE offices, students sought for the speculated “line”, asked ICE personnel and were able to conclude and complete their mission that the appropriate line is the DREAM Act.  Although the Sheriff department was present, students were not intimidated and fulfilled their objective.  This was evidently shown as students formed a line on ICE offices sidewalk, leading them to the virtual gateway of the DREAM Act.

On Thursday November 18th, 2010 undocumented students gathered at the Arizona State Capital to “Come out of the Shadows” as undocumented and unafraid. In front of peers, allies and the media, they came out as future lawyers, psychologists, and engineers. About a dozen students exposed their legal status while also speaking about the contributions they could provide to this country.
Laws such as SB 1070, Proposition 300 and 287G have oppressed the immigrant community in Arizona, yet, these students state they are not intimidated by the misguided tactic of politicians. The “Coming out of the Shadows” event was not only for undocumented youth to reveal their status, it was also a launch of a campaign to ‘bring out’ politicians that use immigrants as a scapegoat for issues such as the economy and education.