DREAM Activist Gaby Pacheco Talks to LatinoPoliticsBlog

March 10th, 2010 · 7 Comments

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Gaby Pacheco, one of the undocumented Trail of DREAMS walkers, who is on a journey from Miami to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness for the DREAM Act and humane immigration reform. Gaby was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her day to share her thoughts and ideas about what can be done to help bring undocumented youth out of the shadows and regularized into society.

Two questions kept running through my mind as I spoke to Gaby. One is: Why would we not want these motivated young people in our society? The other question is: Why should we limit young people who have persevered despite the odds being stacked against them?

As I have explained previously, DREAM Act students are undocumented individuals, who were brought to this country as children. They didn’t have any choice in the matter, but their parents were seeking a better future. Some may have been legal at one point and their status lapsed, and others may have entered the country illegally. However, children traveling with their parents are rarely ever in the driver’s seat. They travel with their caregivers, similar to how other youngsters have been traveling throughout time.

Gaby Pacheco has completed three degrees at Miami Dade College. She holds two associates degrees and a bachelor’s degree in education. She told me that if the DREAM Act became law tomorrow that she would apply for her master’s or another graduate program that would allow her to continue on to earn a Ph.D. so that she could practice music therapy. More specifically, Gaby wants to work with autistic children to teach them how to survive and be productive in the world. In expressing her dream, Gaby told me, “I want to teach them how to live. When I was in 12th grade, I saw a lot of kids in group homes who didn’t need to be there.”

It’s obvious that Gaby has the motivation and existing education to achieve a graduate degree, but her undocumented status is holding her back. In trying to figure out why the US would not want a motivated young person like Gaby fully contributing to our country, I did a little research on special education teachers with some data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment for special education teachers is expected to increase faster than average for all occupations because there is a shortage of people who specialize in working with youth who are disabled. Gaby could most certainly work with special needs children, but she could also train others to work with this population as well if she had her graduate degree(s).

Sadly, I know young people who have the benefits of legalized status who don’t even have half the motivation or ambition that Gaby and her fellow DREAM walkers have. Despite not being able to work legally, to pursue advanced studies, qualify for financial aid, or even live without having to worry about other family members and their immigration status, many of these students have achieved more and shown more motivation than some of their documented peers. It doesn’t make sense to further limit these student by not regularizing them into our society, and it really isn’t realistic to assume that they would fit in back in their countries of origin. This country has become their home.

I asked Gaby what President Obama and his administration could do right now to help alleviate the situation for the DREAM Act students, and she gave me two suggestions. She said, “He could encourage the congress to pass the DREAM Act, which he indicated that he supported back in the primary debates between him and Hillary Clinton. And he can stop the deportation of DREAMers or undocumented people who have a legal spouse or child.”

Some immigration rights advocates have pushed for comprehensive immigration reform, similar to the bill in the Congress that has been introduced by Representative Gutierrez (this does include the DREAM Act). Furthermore, some have suggested that the approach to immigration reform must be a whole one and not piecemeal since coalitions that support various parts of it could be broken or rendered less effective in parts. However, sometimes policies are implemented incrementally. I think that the DREAM Act could be the first piece in a larger comprehensive immigration reform if we don’t see more movement from congress before the summer.

When asked what she thought about the whole comprehensive approach versus implementing immigration reform in pieces where the DREAM Act might be passed before other elements of the existing proposal, Gaby offered this, “My parents came for us (their children). I think they would be fine with that. The dream of this country is to better yourself and that has typically been done through the children.”

When I asked Gaby about elected politicians who have expressed support for their walk and work to advocate on behalf of the DREAM Act, I was told that Rep. Mario Diaz Balart has personally congratulated her for her effort. Regarding the candidates for Florida’s hotly contested senate seat, Gaby also expressed that Governor Charlie Crist has been supportive of the DREAM Act students, as has Representative Kendrick Meek, while Marco Rubio has not indicated support for the DREAM Act or commented about the students on this walk. Congressman Alcee Hastings also issued a written proclamation in support of the DREAM Walkers while indicating that he is a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act when they commenced on their long journey in Palm Beach, Florida. The local support expressed for these students has truly been bipartisan.

Finally, if you believe in the DREAM Act and realize the benefit that our country could benefit from such diligent and motivated young people, I encourage you to assist the Trail of DREAMS walkers. Gaby expressed to me that they are most in need of money for food to keep them nourished and healthy, in addition to gas money for the RV that follows the walkers with their supplies.

Tags: Barack Obama · community organizing and activism · Education · Hillary Clinton · Immigration · Rep. Luis Gutierrez · Rep. Mario Diaz Balart

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 IE // Mar 11, 2010 at 11:23 am

    When I was an undergrad working as a High School math tutor, I recall meeting several students that found themselves in similar situations. These kids were excellent hard working students, and one of the gals was even the class valedictorian. Even back then in 1997-98, these students were working hard trying to make a better life for themselves.

    It’s a shame that hard working immigrant children aren’t afforded the same educational opportunities.

    Not only would the Dream Act help educate these productive hard working students, it would create more hard working productive citizens in the U.S.

    Everyone wins here!

  • 2 Michaelr // Mar 16, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    It’s it amazing how racism blinds and then taints the obvious benefits of this legislation.

  • 3 bucksrightmom // Mar 29, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Not the same opportunities? Surely you jest. These kids have every right and opportunity to pursue higher education in their home countries including access to financial aid, scholarships and loans. The DREAM Act is an amnesty veiled as an educational “opportunity”. Illegal immigrant families should not be rewarded to immigration benefits nor educational subsidies from taxpayers no matter how long they’ve been here illegally.

  • 4 bucksrightmom // Mar 29, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    BTW..there are over 25 million unemployed Americans (including Latinos) and their families who are struggling to figure out how to pay for their student’s education. The DREAM Act would have former illegal aliens competing for educational loans, grants and aid with citizens, and legal residents who played by the rules.

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