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1500 miles to lose the fear of being Undocumented

May 13, 2010

“It took me 15 hundred miles to lose the fear of being undocumented.” – Carlos Roa

Today Gaby Pacheco, Carlos Roa, Felipe Matos, and Juan Rodriguez, arrived in their hometown, Miami, after being away for almost five months on their 1500 mile journey called the Trail of DREAMs. On January 1, 2010, these four immigrant students from Miami set off to Washington, DC on foot! Their uplifting journey educated communities along the way about the contributions of immigrants to the United States and shone a spotlight on the pain caused by our country’s broken immigration system. I was fortunate to help them run this campaign through my work at Presente.org, joining them on their walk during various times.

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Trail of Dreams arriving to DC on April 28th. Picture from the NY Times – Read full story here

In DC, they showed up at the White House with other undocumented students, to demand that Obama take immediate action to stop the deportations of students like them. “Our dream is the opportunity to fully participate in and give back to the only country we know as home, and not live in constant fear that we will be sent away,” said Felipe Matos, one of the walkers “We have been waiting for years to speak up about our situation as immigrant students. President Obama, we cannot wait any longer!”

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Walkers in DC during the May 1 Protests. Photo by Carlos Quiroz

Their walk reminded us all of the real human cost of a failed immigration policy – beyond the numbers and quotas – there are the experiences of the millions of immigrants who live in the shadows. Unknown numbers of people die trekking through the extreme conditions of the desert. Mothers and fathers leave their families in their best attempts to provide for their children. Young immigrants, who were brought as children to the U.S, live in extreme fear of being deported to countries they barely know. It is these human stories that we can
share, that can begin to shift the minds of the public. This is one of the reasons I became involved in the Trail of Dreams as an organizer and artist – to share with people around the country, the story of Gaby, Carlos, Juan and Felipe.

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Arrest action in front of White House on May 1, 2010. Photo by Carlos Quiroz

Its time that we all hold Obama accountable.

He can put an immediate stop to the human suffering we are witnessing in immigrant communities around the country. While his administration offered us some hope in 2009 around around immigration reform, the political climate for immigrants is spiraling out of control. In Obama’s first year of office, 400,000 people have been deported, more than any single year of the Bush administration. An immigration bill has yet to be introduced in the Senate. The Department of Homeland Security continues to expand domestic programs like 287G. The recent passage of a draconian state law, SB1070, in Arizona, reflects a shift towards extremist policies.

“Most importantly, Obama’s ICE continues to deport immigrants–family members of citizens, Dream-eligible students, workers, homeowners, taxpayers–at a rate of 1,000 a day.” explains Citizen Orange.(read more)

We are a crucial turning point in the immigrant rights movement, and I trust that young immigrants will lead us in challenging even Obama & the Democrats, who are speaking out of both sides of their mouth. As the walkers on the Trail of Dreams exemplified, we can all be “Undocumented and Unafraid.” Young immigrants represent a bridge to both cultures, being that many of them have grown up here and view this country as their home.

Please join me in asking the Obama Administration to immediately end the deportation of students eligible for the DREAM Act.

Gaby, Juan, Felipe & Carlos – you are home! Your home is everywhere because you are the people’s warriors.

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