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Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
Raymi Gutierrez speaks at Salt Lake Community College about her plans to walk from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., to promote passage of the DREAM Act.

SALT LAKE CITY — When she talks about it, she can't hide her tears; she knows the agony of living in fear of losing her family as a result of immigration laws.

An American citizen and member of an immigrant family, Raymi Gutierrez feels the responsibility to speak out and protest for a path to legalize the situation of 2 million students in the United States.

As a child, Gutierrez realized there were some benefits that some members of her family could not have. Her parents constantly reminded her that she would be the first of her siblings to achieve a college education.

"My father was a lawyer in Bolivia, but he cleaned floors in this country. He gave up his profession in order to feed my family," she said.

A few months ago, while looking into serving an LDS Church mission, Gutierrez heard of a movement that would travel much of the country to promote approval of the DREAM Act, a cause she is involved in locally as a member of the "Salt Lake Dream Team." The DREAM Act is a proposal before Congress that would give a pathway to citizenship to children who came to the United States illegally but who attend college or enlist in the military.

"I talked to many people, and everyone told me that both projects would be important, that I should choose one without feeling bad about leaving the other, and I felt that they were both unique opportunities in life," she said.

Gutierrez's application was accepted, and she will be one of the "dreamers" to walk 2,815 miles carrying their message across the United States.

"I jumped for joy, I could not believe it, as this is very important for me and my family," she said.

The only female and only U.S. citizen in the group, Gutierrez will travel with three undocumented students — Jonatan Martinez from Georgia, Nico Gonzalez from Illinois and Lucas da Silva from Florida — and possiblly a fifth member.

The walk will take them coast to coast, starting in San Francisco on March 10. The goal is to walk 15 to 70 miles per day, arriving in Washington in early November, before the presidential election. The Campaign for an American Dream walk will go through Utah, probably in early May, when there will be a public event.

"I want to give hope and show that the approval of the DREAM Act is possible, that the American dream is real," Gutierrez told Salt Lake Community College students at a conference where she discussed her participation in the walk.

She said she's lived for three years afraid Immigration and Customs Enforcement would separate her family.

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On Dec. 26, 2008, her father called the family together to show letters of deportation that had come for her older siblings and parents, after a former brother-in-law, at the time going through a divorce with her sister, had turned them over to immigration authorities.

"At that time I was 19 and suddenly I was faced with the reality that I would have to leave my studies to take care of my younger brothers," she said.

After a legal battle, the family is currently being allowed to stay.

More information on the walk is available online at www.cadwalk2012.org.

Email: tnavarro@desnews.com