Last DREAM Now Letter to President Obama: Laura López

September 17th, 2010 · 3 Comments

The “DREAM Now Series: Letters to Barack Obama” is a social media campaign that launched Monday, July 19, to underscore the urgent need to pass the DREAM Act, and ended on Wednesday, September 15, with the full support of Barack Obama. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, S. 729, would help tens of thousands of young people, American in all but paperwork, to earn legal status, provided they graduate from U.S. high schools, have good moral character, and complete either two years of college or military service.  With broader comprehensive immigration reform stuck in partisan gridlock, the time is now for Congress to step up and pass the DREAM Act!

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Laura López and I am an undocumented resident of Napa, California. My parents brought me in 1989 to provide for me the American Dream. I was a year and eight months old. The plan was that they’d work and I’d study and go to college. Our hard work was supposed to merit us the American Dream. But my merit would be questioned for a lack of legal documentation.

In 7th grade I joined Talent Search, a community college program promoting higher education. With them I planned my high school classes based on the track towards the University of California. I worked hard through the honors courses and passed the Advanced Placements tests. I completed community service hours with the honor society and competed with the dance team in San Diego, Reno, and Disney World. I did it all to get to college. As a senior in high school I learned of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26: “Higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit”. I believed it then, and I believe it now.

I merited the acceptance letters and chose Santa Cruz. But my high school counselor and Talent Search mentor did not mention that if you are undocumented, you must file the Assembly Bill 540 Non-resident Tuition Exemption Form or pay out-of-state tuition. Perhaps it didn’t cross their minds that I could be undocumented and that AB540 was a determinant factor in my American Dream. Although I had lived in the same town for all but a year of my life I could be considered a non-resident student if weren’t for that bill. If it weren’t for late Assemblyperson Marco Firebaugh bill, I could not have afforded college; I would not have graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a B.A. in Latin American and Latino Studies, Cum Laude, and a minor in Legal Studies. But, you may be asking Mr. President, what of life after college as an undocumented graduate with honors? Without a pathway to legalization, no merit of mine seems to matter. I have a great degree with which I could help the ever growing Latino population (citizens, permanent residents, and undocumented folks), but I cannot use it. I cannot get a job. Don’t get me wrong, I love volunteering because it is necessary, but I need a job.

Folks who demand to ‘do it the legal way’ and ‘wait in line’ process may not realize that I am in line. If the system ran smoothly my wait is 12 years. Due to the application backlog my real wait is more like 18 years. At this pace, another generation will be born and graduate high school before I am eligible for a ‘green card’. I may be in that line, but I am not willing to wait what seems a life time to live my own dreams. I am one of the 21 students who did the sit-in lobbying for the DREAM Act on July 20th. And as Senator Reid’s, Feinstein’s, Menendez’s, Schumer’s, and McCain’s offices as my witnesses, us DREAMers will do all that it takes to pass the DREAM Act Now!

It is urgent the DREAM Act passes because the current immigration system is inefficient. My parents became Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) in September, 2004 and applied for me that December. You may wonder, Mr. President, why if my parents are residents since 2004 I am not. I must explain a little of the immigration process. If your parent is at least a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) s/he can petition for you. A United States Citizen sibling can petition for you once s/he turns 21. I am the oldest so I had to wait for my parents to become LPRs. Without a pathway to legalization the petition my parents’ filed for me will be denied. I’ll be placed into deportation proceedings. Upon this happening, I could qualify for cancellation of removal if I meet the following requirements. One, have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years (check mark). Two, have a good moral character (check mark). And three, and most difficult to prove, my sponsor (parent) would suffer extreme and unusual hardship if I were deported (not likely by immigration standards).

In my family’s case, my parents’ were able to become residents because my sister was born with hypophosphatemic rickets, a condition that requires life long vitamin supplements and corrective surgery too costly to be done without medical insurance and too extensive and painful to be done without your parents’ support. Thus, when my parents’ were denied their petition in 1997, the attorney filed for cancellation of removal and was able to prove that my sister would suffer ‘extreme and unusual hardship’ without them. According to the immigration process, my sister could not petition for me since she was not 21 years old, nor would she ‘suffer’ with my absence. And, so, my parents took the precaution of keeping me out of the petition rather than face the possibility of my deportation at just 10 years old.

So you see, I couldn’t become a resident 10+ years ago and I may not become a resident in 18 years because the immigration system is terribly flawed. I understand that the political climate may not permit for a Comprehensive Immigration Reform. But the DREAM Act is the first step towards creating that right atmosphere. We all know that merit will be the foundation for Reform as it is already the foundation for the DREAM Act. I merit my residency through the DREAM Act and the DREAM Act is my only hope. I have met all of the pre-requisites. I have met the requirement of graduating from college. I don’t want my college education to remain in idle; I don’t want my future to remain on hold any longer.

I will be celebrating my 23rd birthday in a couple of months. I hope to also celebrate passage of the DREAM Act. It is the only legislation that would allow me to see my life beyond the American Dream my parents foresaw two decades ago. We all need the DREAM Act Now!

Laura López

The “DREAM Now” letter series is inspired by a similar campaign started by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  The letters are produced by Kyle de Beausset at Citizen Orange with the assistance of America’s Voice.  Every Monday and Wednesday DREAM-eligible youth will publish letters to the President, and each Friday there will be a DREAM Now recap. 

Approximately 65,000 undocumented youth graduate from U.S. high schools every year, who could benefit from passage of the DREAM Act.  Many undocumented youth are brought to the United States before they can even remember much else, and some don’t even realize their undocumented status until they have to get a driver’s license, want to join the military, or apply to college.  DREAM Act youth are American in every sense of the word — except on paper.  It’s been nearly a decade since the DREAM Act was first introduced.  If Congress does not act now, another generation of promising young graduates will be relegated to the shadows and blocked from giving back fully to our great nation.

This is what you can do right now to pass the DREAM Act:

  1. Sign the DREAM Act Petition
  2. Join the DREAM Act Facebook Cause
  3. Send a fax in support of the DREAM Act
  4. Call your Senator and ask them to pass the DREAM Act now.
  5. Email kyle at citizenorange dot com to get more involved

Below is a list of previous entries in the DREAM Now Series:

Mohammad Abdollahi (19 July 2010)
Yahaira Carrillo (21 July 2010)
Weekly Recap – Tell Harry Reid You Want the DREAM Act Now (23 July 2010)
Wendy (26 July 2010)
Matias Ramos (28 July 2010)
Weekly Recap – The CHC Has To Stand With Migrant Youth Not Against Us (30 July 2010)
Tania Unzueta (2 August 2010)
Marlen Moreno (4 August 2010)
Weekly Recap – The Ghost of Virgil Goode Possesses the Republican Party (9 August 2010)
David Cho (9 August 2010)
Ivan Nikolov (11 August 2010)
Yves Gomes (16 August 2010)
Selvin Arevalo (18 August 2010)
Weekly Recap – Latino, LGBT, Migrant Youth, and Progressive Bloggers Lead For the DREAM Act (20 August 2010)
Carlos A. Roa, Jr. (23 August 2010)
Myrna Orozco (25 August 2010)
Lizbeth Mateo (30 August 2010)
Saad Nabeel (1 September 2010)
Chih Tsung Kao (8 September 2010)
Gaby Pacheco (13 September 2010)

Tags: Barack Obama · community organizing and activism · Education · Immigration

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anna // Sep 17, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    I have a question. What do you think of the military component of the Dream Act?

  • 2 webmaster // Sep 18, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I don’t necessarily like the military component of DREAM, but it is what will help get it passed (to appease those more heavily entrenched in the military industrial complex). Sure, many Latino youth die on the front lines in battle, but many Latinos also use the military for upward mobility to get trained, to earn the GI Bill, etc. For many young people, the military provides structure and guidance where they might not have it at home, and there are plenty of DREAMers who want to join the armed forces. Please see this youtube as an example:

  • 3 Gustavo Gutierrez // Sep 18, 2010 at 9:59 am

    To Anna,

    I am Latino and I was in the military (USN) after graduating from UCLA in ’03. I joined not because of a sense of patriotism, but because back then there was a recession with a tough job market for new grads, however, I was not successful in landing a “decent paying job.” I was working as a supervisor of a coffee cart kiosk in Downtown LA, not my dream job, it paid a little over minimum wage, but offered me less than 40 hours a week, and the commute was grueling.

    Out of frustration, while living in the San Fernando Valley, I took the plunge, and enlisted. Some of my Latino classmates from college were stunned by my career choice. However, because of my stench in the military, I now have completed nursing school, going to take my boards next month, and will hopefully pass first time around with a license by the end of this year.

    However, I never agreed with our invasion in Iraq, but being from a working class background, this was the “most rational” decision at the time.

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