Kevin was 11 when he arrived in the United States. Dimas was 13. Both are candidates for the DREAM Act, and told their stories at an event organized by Centro Presente and the Welcome Project.
The DREAM Act would provide a legal path to citizenship for people who were brought here as children without documents.
Their event was part of a campaign that won unanimous support from the Somerville Aldermen and School Committee for the DREAM Act.
Here’s a link to the Welcome Project article about the School Committee DREAM Act hearing and vote.
Supported by Rep. Capuano and Sen. Kerry, but opposed by Sen. Brown, the DREAM Act passed the House but was stopped in the Senate by a Republican filibuster.
Here’s a transcript of most of the presentation. Something to think about on Martin Luther King Day.
Good evening, my name is Dimas Avila. I’m Honduran, I’m 18 year old and I just recently graduated from Somerville High School this past June.
Hello my name is Chaudeline and I am a current student of the Somerville High School. We would like to give you a warm welcome and thank you for coming to the “We DREAM, we ACT” event.
We are your MC’s for the evening, this is such an important event in which you would be able to listen to stories from local youth and how a state-wide movement needs to be addressed at a local level because it affects many of us and maybe even you who are sitting right there.
For example, Dimas, did you know that in our Somerville High School 54.2% of our fellow students first language is not English.
Really, no wonder why our school is so diverse. Even though Somerville as a city welcomes diversity in many ways I think tonight we need to talk about how The Dream Act and supporting the Dream Act will better our community.
We would like to welcome you and thank you for your support but before we start why don’t you Dimas tell us a bit more about the organization you represent and the work you do.
Sure, I am one of Centro Presente’s Peer Leaders. I am a part of the youth program called Pintamos Nuestro Mundo/We Paint Our World. Where we work on building a community of Latino youth working to defend immigrant rights and empower a new generation to act for meaningful social change and economic justice through community organizing, art and media instruction and workshops.
What about you Chaudeline…
I have been a youth leader at the Welcome Project, a 22 year old organization dedicated to working for the local immigrant community in Somerville. I am part of a program called LIPS which stands for Liaison Interpreter of Somerville Program we help our community by breaking the barrier of language and provide interpretation for many different activities in the community allowing other language speakers to participate regardles of the language they speak. But tonight we are here for a cause that unifies us all.
Yes! We are here because…
We are DREAMERS!!
We have been working for the last month and a half supporting SIM, The Student Immigrant Movement who has been the pioneer of the Dream Act Movement in Massachusetts. Over the past couple of months we have gone to rallies, press conferences and events supporting the Dream Act and last week we all went to an action held in front of the Boston City Hall where we witness the US Senate vote 56 to 43 against a motion to proceed with the defense appropriations bill that would have been used to move the DREAM Act through.
Sad, but it’s not the end of it…we are still DREAMERS right?
Yes, that is why we are here tonight so we can share with all of you our sentiment and connection with the DREAM ACT and how this affects not only at a federal level but also at the local level.
Tonight we have our friend Kevin who is going to share with you his own story and present more information about the DREAM ACT.
Hello, my name is Kevin I am from El Salvador, I was 11 years old when I came to the United States and I just turned 14 on June 11. I left El Salvador on September 10 and got here on September 25. As of today, I have been in the United States for 3 years and 5 days. My mom left our country when I was 2 years old she came seeking for the American Dream. My mom was a single mother and it was difficult for her to provide for me and that’s why she decided to move to the U.S. I am a perfect candidate for the Dream Act.
The DREAM Act, is to help those individuals who meet certain requirements, have an opportunity to enlist in the military or go to college and have a path to citizenship. We supporters of the DREAM Act believe it is vital not only to the people who would benefit from it, but also the United States as a whole.
These are the requirements one would need in order to qualify for the current version of the DREAM Act.
- Must have entered the United States before the age of 16
- Must have been present in the United States for at least five consecutive years
- Must have graduated from a United States high school, or have obtained a GED, or have been accepted into an institution of higher education or the Army.
- Must be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of application
- And lastly, must have good moral character
All I hope is that my dreams don’t get torn up apart just because I don’t have a paper. I want to be able to accomplish my goals, I want to go to College, be able to study and learn from my peers and become a successful person. If I could go back to El Salvador I would like to show my dad that I can be a better person and that my mother’s effort was worth it. The Dream Act would give an opportunity to undocumented immigrant youth and students who have been living in the U.S. since they were young, a chance to contribute back to the country that has given so much to them and a chance to utilize their hard earned education and talents.
Like Kevin I came to the Unite States when I was only 13 years old. I didn’t have a say in the decision my parents made to come to the States; I had a good life back there. My family was separated for over 8 years and we saw coming to the States as a chance to be together again. The States represented an opportunity to succeed which is something that in our country is impossible due to lack of jobs and opportunities. I graduated from Somerville high school class of 2010 now I am trying to go to college and I hope to some day become an engineer and become a positive asset to this country. My life is full of roadblocks and responsibilities. I am the oldest son in my family I have a job that helps sustain and support my family now. I want to go to college and I am willing to work hard to achieve my goals even though I know that I have to pay 3 times higher the price for classes just because I don’t have a nine digit number. Stories like mine are not uncommon in Somerville many of my classmates are going through the same situation. The Somerville i know is proud of its diversity and tries to create a community where members of all races, ethnicities, religious backgrounds are welcomed. I want Somerville to show their support for students like me who are hardworking, dedicated and want to contribute to this community.
Wow! Dimas, I don’t know about you but for me your story really tells me a lot and I can testify to that because I know many people who are in the same situation.
Chaudeline, can you tell us why are you involved with the Dream Act?
Yes, I believe that America is a great nation, which I am proud of because of our compassion for other nations, but as our history, has shown us, we have a lot to be ashamed of too. I think that denying some one of an education because they lack documentation is a crime because we are ignoring the skills that these youth have that can better our community. Because I have documents I have access to opportunities that many students that are more disciplined than I am don’t have, because they are undocumented. Today as a young member of this community, I am fighting for the future of these young adults who have potential and desire to give back to the community. My request to you is to join me in this cause and acknowledge a community that supports its youth and provides them with opportunity to reach their Dreams.
We would like to present two of the youth that have been working in this project. Here are their stories.
Gabriel: I am a recent immigrant
Laura: I am a recent immigrant
Gabriel: I have only been in the United States for four years
Laura: I have only been in the United States for four years
Laura: I came with my three brothers to be with my parents who had been living in the United States for a while.
Gabriel: I was separated from my parents since I was 5 years old. After 14 long, long years, I finally reunited with them, and a sister with whom I did not have the chance to see as a baby. I cannot blame my parents for their decision of looking for a better future in this country.
Laura: Living in El Salvador was difficult because we lived with my aunt, she took care of us when my parents were not there but nothing replaces my parents love, I really missed them when I was there. Since coming to the states, I have heard many stories about families being separated and I do not want to be separate from them anymore, because I have been without my parents for many years.
Together: We have faced so many barriers.
Gabriel: Coming to a new country and not knowing the language, the people, and the culture were just some of them; we continue to break these barriers everyday. Just wear my shoes for a day. My dream is to reach my full potential through education. I want you to feel my desperation for not being able to do what I want to do. I just want you to understand that I want the same rights that others have. In order for me to keep educating myself, I have to fight for it.
Laura: I want the Dream Act to pass; I want it to become a law more than anything, because it would give me the opportunity to become a permanent resident who will continue to contribute in a positive way to this society. I am a student at Somerville High and I want to continue on to College because I want to be a youth psychologist.
Gabriel: Yes, some kids dream to be warriors, some dream to be firefighters, I always dreamt to be an artist. The Dream Act is a beginning point, a crucial and important point to become what I want, it is the starting point that will make us successful. In addition, I want people to see the difference that I will make, so that they can be proud of whom I am. College is the only light that I see at the end of the road, it is the only opportunity that I have and I do not want to lose it. I would feel proud to be first generation in college. Just to think that I would not be able to go to college makes my life foggy and without any sense. If this did not have any sense I would not be here asking you to support this, but it’s something that we need from you all.
Laura: Please support the Dream Act and help not just me but all those youth who also don’t want to be separated from their parents again.
Gabriel: We are Dreamers
Laura: Care to Dream with us?
This is a movement that involves not only undocumented immigrants but also citizen who care. I would like to introduce a youth member who has been working with us and would like to share her story as a citizen dedicated to working for immigrant rights.
Please, give Pauly a warm welcome!
I am a U.S citizen and I desire more than anything for the Dream Act to become a law. Many of us in this room today take being an American Citizen for granted. I want to share with you several experiences I have had in my short life. I have many family members and friends that are extremely dedicated, selfless, hardworking, and committed to making this country a better place; they contribute to this economy and don’t have rights, is that fair? They aspire to be psychologists, artists, business men and more than anything they want to go to college and just because they don’t have a simple paper that tells them they are U.S citizens or permanent residents they are shut down from all opportunities. Some of my family members came to this country when they were young because they wanted to have a better life, where they would have more just working wages, better living conditions, a better education, and also to give their family a better way of life back in El Salvador. They came with a lot of dreams but all their dreams were squashed not for their lack of effort but because they don’t have that piece of paper. So many of my friends in the Somerville High school came when they were just children, some were 5, others 9 and some just in their teens. They didn’t decide to come to the United States, at that age a child goes where their family goes, and in most cases my friend’s parents decided that life in the U.S would bring them a better life and would give them more opportunities for success. My responsibility as a U.S citizen is to get involved, participate and help in any way I can. I want the Dream Act to pass nationally but I also want my community to be committed to inclusivity and diversity!
We share this not only because some of us are blood related but because this is something that affects us as citizens and members of this community, your neighbor, your classmate, your collegue
Peoples stories are complicated (one day you are documented and another day you are not)
This is a movement not only for immigrants but for everyone in the community.