Students from many Chicago universities, including UIC, rallied together at Grant Park to support the DREAM Act last Wednesday afternoon. According to dreamact.info, “The DREAM Act is a bipartisan legislation that can solve this hemorrhaging injustice in our society. Under the rigorous provisions of the DREAM Act, qualifying undocumented youth would be eligible for a 6 year long conditional path to citizenship that requires completion of a college degree or two years of military service.”
In order to qualify for the benefits of the DREAM Act, a person must have entered the United States before the age of 16, have been present in the United States for at least 5 consecutive years prior to enactment of the bill, have graduated from a United States high school, or have obtained a GED, or have been accepted into an institution of higher education (i.e. college/university), be between the ages of (http://dreamact.info/faq) 12 and 35 at the time of application and have good moral character.
The DREAM Act rally began with many chants such as, “Up, up with education; down, down with deportation,” “Hey McConnell, hey McCain, the DREAM Act is not a game,” “Si, se puede,” and “What do we want? DREAM Act! When do we want it? Now!” These rousing chants fired up the crowd and led to more serious speaker notes of individual students’ testimonies about their life as an academic and an undocumented immigrant.
Roosevelt student and Associate Director of The Access to Opportunity Movement, Oneka Ijeoma, organized and led the rally. In her speech, Ijeoma stated, “The DREAM Act a symbol of hope” and later read a poem by Langston Hughes titled, “I, Too, Sing America.”
At the DREAM Act rally, students from many high schools and universities across the city spoke about their experience. Among them was fourth year UIC student and Anthropology major named Jorge Mena, who gave his testimony of being an undocumented student. “Yes, I am going to graduate with my bachelor’s, but there is nothing I can do with this. There’s no way I can get and job and I don’t know what to do when I graduate,” said Mena in his testimony. Sadly, this is a reality for many students who graduate college, but without official papers cannot become part of the American workforce.
“A piece of paper doesn’t qualify you as an American. An American is your train of thought and what you want to do in life; to achieve the American dream… I don’t find it fair that they don’t get the chances that I do because they deserve it even more,” said Cristian Yugsi, a third year Sociology major from UIC.
Several students who attended the rally had something to say about the DREAM Act. “I believe that everyone has the right to education, no matter their circumstances,” said UIC third year Chemistry major Jenny Martinez Fourth year and English major, Adrianna Delgado, said, “I am legal but I have a lot of friends who are not and I couldn’t imagine not being able to have that opportunity.”
On Tuesday September 21st, 2010, the Dream Act fell 4 votes short of being passed in the Senate. “Yesterday, it wasn’t just a bill shut down,” said Oneka Ijeoma said. “It was futures shut down.” Supporters still have hope in a brighter future for rights and will continue to stand up against injustices.
To make the DREAM Act a reality, you are invited to contact local legislature to encourage them to support this bill. One Senator in particular, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid’s phone number was given out at the rally. If you would like to support the DREAM Act efforts, call Senator Reid at (202)224-3542.