One topic that Seneca and I have addressed on the blog is the plight of the DREAM Act students, undocumented young people who were brought to the US as children and who seek to become regularized so that they can realize their dreams of attending college (actually some do make it through college despite their status), finding work, and contributing to society. In Florida, four young DREAM Act students, those who would benefit from its passage, have undertaken a brave, character-building and awareness raising walk from their home in Miami, Florida to Washington, D.C., which is a 1500 mile trek. Their walk is called “The Trail of DREAMS.”
Last week these brave young adults encountered the KKK as they walked through Georgia. Later today these DREAMers will enter Gwinnett County, Georgia and ask to meet with Sheriff R.L. “Butch” Conway, who runs a 287(g) program in a similarly oppressive fashion to Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona. In essence, those localities that have been allowed to enforce immigration laws under the 287(g) program have done so by profiling, intimidating, and in many instances terrorizing local Latino communities. Sheriff Conway, a proponent of the 287(g) program, has led an effort to deport hundreds of immigrants from Gwinnett County in the past three months. The DREAMers are requesting to meet with the Sheriff in person to explain the hardship that his actions are causing to families like their own.
Juan Rodriguez, one of the walkers, has offered this statement:
“We’re not afraid of unjust laws. We’re not scared of Sheriff Conway. We actually hope to share our own experiences as immigrant students with him, and to explain the fear and pain that detentions and deportations cause within families. Local enforcement of federal policies like the one Sheriff Conway is proudly implementing are proof of the need for real immigration reform. These policies have the long-term effect of criminalizing immigrants – the vast majority of whom are here only to work hard and provide for their families.”
Rodriguez and the other walkers have been asking to meet with Sheriff Conway, but their requests have been denied. It is easier to turn the other way and ignore the issue than to engage in a healthy dialogue, but today when the students request a meeting with Sheriff Conway in person, they will be accompanied by attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center and other legal advocacy organizations in case they are detained. Additionally, these legal observers will be able to witness what happens.
I ask those of you who support the DREAM Act and humane, comprehensive immigration reform to follow what these brave young people will be doing today on Twitter and/or on Facebook. Also, check the national news for any stories about this, and spread the word among your friends. There are students here in the US with legalized status who not even consider influencing public policy in such an audacious manner, but these DREAM activists are persisting in spite of their undocumented status. These students are definitely giving their documented counterparts a run for the money in the political engagement department.
Finally, if you are able, please consider donating to the Trail of Dreams Walkers. They need funds for food, water, and shoes.