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

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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:

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DREAM Army in Washington, D.C.

 

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

 

DREAM Act Rally at Arizona State University

 


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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.

 

 

On Saturday November 13, 2010, the 5th annual Stylos Awards were presented in the downtown Phoenix Art Museum.  The awards ceremony recognized Latino spirit and talent in the valley.  Aside from shedding light on Latino culture and progressive issues, Stylos simultaneously raises funds to aid Latino scholars, such as the Isaac Amaya Scholarship.  The Arizona DREAM Act Coalition (ADAC) won the award for “Best Organization of the Year” and Daniel Rodriguez won “Activist of the Year.” This prestigious recognition of the ADAC and one of their leaders is a reflection of the arduous work and dedication ADAC members in their roles as agents of change.

 

On July 16th members of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition will head to Washington D.C.  We will join thousands of students on the steps of Capitol Hill, demanding that Congress and the White House move on the DREAM Act as the first step towards Immigration Reform.

We head to Washington D.C. not with the Arpaio state of mind, but with the state of mind to move this movement forward.  There cannot be freedom in fear, but we know we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.  There is, however, no change here.  So Washington D.C. it is.  Do not ask us to sit down, but instead have the courage to Stand Up with us.


We cannot lower our heads at the possibility of failure, we cannot howl any excuse.  For many of us this is a time to exhale, not a dead avail of pursued truth.  We have marched in Phoenix, rallied in Nevada, but there is a great gulf in this world between Washington D.C. and the desert that we live in.  We will take this fight to Washington.

Thousands of DREAM students are graduating from high schools and colleges throughout the nation.  They will join a group that continues to see more and more doors closed.  This year, hundreds of students in Arizona, particularly in Arizona State University, will lose their scholarships funded by private sources.

They will face a world that isn’t fair; they may lose hope and say “I just don’t care.”  But we have our youth and we have our health.  There is no reason to wonder in the blues, we fight so that the DREAM will finally get through.

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.

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.

The DREAM is coming to Washington D.C.  Please make a donation to the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition by clicking HERE.