Dream GraduationThanks to the tireless work of Dreamers and a growing youth-led movement, eligible undocumented youth can now submit applications for Deferred Action. (And to learn how you can help from a donor perspective, read North Star Fund executive director Hugh Hogan's latest piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Two Reasons Grant Makers Should Rush to Help Immigrant Charities.) This is just the beginning of a growing movement led by undocumented youth like Angy Rivera, a member of the New York State Youth Leadership Council, who wrote the following post.
For the last several years, symbolic Dream Graduations have been held all over the country to highlight the thousands of youth who have graduated from middle school, high school, and/or college with an uncertain future. Undocumented students do not qualify for financial aid, which makes attending and completing college extremely difficult. The Dream Act is a bill that was introduced in 2001 to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth who meet certain requirements.
NYSYLC has been a North Star Fund grantee since 2010.
Dream graduations are done to show politicians that we are still here, waiting for relief, and will not go away. I attended the 2012 Dream Graduation - my first since I've been advocating for the Dream Act.
We, the members of the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC), drove over 4 hours from New York down to Washington D.C. in order to make it to this event. I didn't sleep for about a week because I was helping coordinate the logistics to ensure the trip was a success on our end. I stayed up making sandwiches the night before the trip. However, once there, I completely forgot about the bags under my eyes, the hunger growling in my stomach and the pain in my back and neck from sleeping on the coach bus.
It was too hot for a gown; I wore my undocumented t-shirt and a black cap to match.The ceremony speakers ranged from allies, to undocumented mothers and undocumented youth like me.
This graduation was organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance. Too many events silence youth, queer folks, women, and undocumented people. I've been in those spaces before. This is different though. We were leading. We were the keynote speakers. We were the ones holding the megaphones and microphones too.
After "graduating" we marched down to the Supreme Court of the United States to let them know that racially profiling is not okay. Arizona's law, SB1070 wasn't completely struck down. The court upheld the "papers please" provision, meaning the police can continue to racially profile, legally.
Chants of "undocumented unafraid" could be heard up and down the side walk as well as "education not deportation." We sat down in front of the court with a huge banner that said, "When injustice becomes law then rebellion becomes duty."
We then had a workshop to learn more about the recent policy announcement known as Deferred Action, which would stop the deportation of certain youth and grant them work permits. Deferred Action does not provide relief for the whole undocumented community, which is why we must continue to fight.
At a social hour I was finally able to put a face to many twitter usernames and hear the voices Facebook friends I'd never met.
The Dream Graduation is symbolic for all the youth who have lived by making up lies about our daily lives. The general hope is to never have to organize a Dream Graduation again. If the Dream Act was a reality and youth as well as parents weren't being deported as if it were a hobby, then we wouldn't have the need for any of this.
While our community is under attack, we must raise awareness and continue to resist. It's not a pretty or short fight; many spirits are getting weary. Those dreams and hopes for the future are slowly becoming pessimistic reminders of how messed up things are. But as long as there are youth willing to empower themselves and those around us, this movement will continue. We are not permanent leaders or faces to the movement, but a place holder for someone else to step in and do even greater things than we did.
The Dream Graduation is the way of passing down the baton and bringing new people in, showing them that this is not just one person but an issue across the country. The Dream Graduation shows us we are not alone and will never be alone.