Students seek American DREAM

Published: Monday, Sept. 20 2010 9:32 p.m. MDT

Hispanic students and supporters participate in a candlelight vigil for the Dream Act at the Federal Building in downtown Salt Lake City on Monday.

Michael Brandy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Ivette couldn't hold back emotion; the tears began rolling down her cheeks as soon has she got the megaphone. She was about to speak to the crowd that was waiting for her testimony. She is a "dreamer."

"I came to this country when I was 6 years old. I am the daughter of a single mother who was abused physically and psychologically," she said.

The young immigrant showed through her dark skin, the inheritance that she couldn't hide, which she couldn't escape and the reason why she was singled out most of her life.

"When I was 7 years old, I was subjected to abuse and bullying, for those who thought I was inferior because of my skin color," she said.

Arturo is also a "dreamer." He has also seen first-hand the racial hatred and discrimination against those who think that universal rights, such as education and work, must only be meant for a few.

His hands trembled as he took the megaphone. He shivered more as he remembered when, as a 6-year-old boy, he crossed the desert holding hands with his mother, in search of a better future.

"The desert is no place for a child," he said. "I didn't understand much of what was happening; I just knew that my parents were looking for a better future for me."

Their stories have much in common, they are just a sample of the reality that thousands of immigrant students in the country share — to be relegated when they prepare to go to college.

"I did not understand why I was different, why I had to lie so that others didn't found out I was 'illegal,' why it depended on nine numbers (a social security number) to be like everyone else," said Nicole, another "dreamer" who came to the United States from Argentina.

It has been nearly 10 years since the fight for the "DREAM Act" initiative began. It seeks to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students who reached American soil when they were minors.

In the beginning, one of the supporters of this proposal was a much younger senator from Utah, Republican Orrin Hatch, who is now expected to vote against the measure.

"By allowing these young people to solve their immigration status and complement their education, we will be leaving a legacy of education for the future," said local Democratic Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck. "Higher levels of education are correlated with a higher level of responsibility and civic participation," she said.

Next to Hatch's vote, one is also expected from Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.

Meanwhile, in Salt Lake City, students will stay outside the federal building, to press for the approval of their "dreams."

e-mail: tnavarro@elobservadorutah.com

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