COMING OUT OF THE SHADOWS AS UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS

DREAM Act AB 540 Students at Fullerton College

Backed by students with posters filled with messages of hope and students masked with paperbags to depict themselves as lost faces within a statistic of undocumented students, Ivan Ceja addresses a crowd of students in front of the library at Fullerton College.

PRINCIPLES GUIDING THESE STUDENTS

For some time now, the sounds of powerful chants have been echoing on the doorsteps of government buildings and the walkways of college campuses. Such chants ring in the ears of many by-standers, delivering messages for hope, truth and equality. Those who chant, “the students united will never be divided,” and march, do so for a cause known as the Dream Act, an Act that strikes at the core principles of a country that stands for the “unalienable rights for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

DREAM Act RALLY AT FULLERTON COLLEGE

The Fullerton Dream Team held a rally at Fullerton College last week Wednesday, February 23rd, which aimed to reach out to those students who feel oppressed by the current provisions on undocumented students and come out of the shadows. Four bodies of students, cornered at each end of the campus, marched toward the center of the school in demonstration of their unity and advocacy for the California Dream Act. Their faces covered with paper bags, numbered in red, to symbolize their un-named faces and stories that are lost within the statistic of the 2.1 million undocumented students.  Students at the forefront of the Dream Act rally spoke out about their lives, their hopes and dreams, and how after a lifetime of living as Americans they feel in exile within a country they consider their own.

BROUGHT AS CHILDREN

“I stand here before everyone as an AB-540 student who has dreams and goals I will fulfill. However, it is not simply my dreams I hope to fulfill, but also those of other students who legal or not, fight against the dream genocide occurring around us,” exclaimed Shirley Santos, a student at Fullerton College, who first arrived to the states in 1996. Shirley was one of eight students who wore the paper bag over their heads as they marched and chanted through the campus. Each of the 8 students unmasked themselves before the crowd and shared their stories and vision.

CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE

Their vision isn’t much different than that of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who fought for civil rights. In his great “I Have A Dream” speech, Dr. King states that the “life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination… the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.” 48 years later, the discrimination and the exile that Dr. King spoke about in 1963 are ever-present. 48 years later, people continue to peacefully fight for their dreams and unite their voices to give rise to yet another issue of civil unrest.

The DREAM Act

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, otherwise known as the Dream Act, is a decade-old measure that aims to support high school graduated undocumented students gain temporary legal residency, and later permanent legal residency. For many students participating in this progressive cause for equality, belief in the content of their character is their last line of defense against the challenges of citizenship segregation.

IMAGINE A BETTER FUTURE FOR ALL

“I feel like a number, a statistic…nonexistent in a country I have called home since I was able to articulate thoughts into words,” said Ivan Ceja, the Team Coordinator for Fullerton Dream Team. Ceja is among the 2.1 million college student who in these times of economic tribulation, are left to feel as outcasts in the only country they call home. The challenges of a working-full-time student life are amplified by disparity at the thought of a bleak post-college future, simply because of citizenship status.

Without the passing of the Dream Act bill, undocumented students face a grim future, where resources are limited and lacking in all the benefits that come with a social security number. Therefore, these students reach out to their fellow peers who have the right to vote. “It is those who can vote that have the ability to make this country better,” stated Ceja. “We seek their alliance and their understanding that this issue affects those around them…together we must turn our voice into action and progress.”

THESE AB540 STUDENTS CAN CONTRIBUTE TO AMERICA’S FUTURE

Students, who are citizens of the country and see an injustice at work in their very own backyard, spoke out for their peers, voicing their support for the Dream Act.  Alex Reyes, a student at Fullerton College, faced the crowd of students at the rally and said, “There are politicians telling us to go and ‘win the future,’ but winning the future means importing people from around the world. Why should we have to do that when our future, physicists, engineers and architects are already here?  And all we have to do is give them the chance to put their education to use.”

The disposition of the gathered crowd grew curious as they listened to the bold message given to them by Reyes, as though they connected the dots and realized that even their future was uncertain in an age of globalization.

Jon Wainwright, a political science major at Fullerton College and an ally of the Dream Team stated that the Dream Act is “a way to right a huge social wrong.”  The social wrong Wainwright tells about is “the ease that those who are against the Dream Act have when spotting the differences and stereotypes.” Wainwright chooses to lend his voice to the Dream Team because he sees the hardships that follow an undocumented student. “The system is stacked against them,” exclaimed Wainwright.

Much like the tides that carried the first 20 Africans across the Atlantic to Virginia in 1619, so have these undocumented students landed on the shores of hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow. Unwillingly did they arrive at their destination, brought here by the winds of love from their parents, who put it all on the line in the belief of the “American Dream.”

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P.S.

1)  CLICK HERE for Additional DREAM Act event at Anaheim, CA.

2)   CLICK HERE for Bipartisan Letter Sent by US Senators to Stop Deportation of DREAM Act Students.

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About Luis Ortiz Jr.

-A student of Human Communications and Public Relations at California State University of Fullerton. -Chairman of Professional Events for Lambda Pi Eta, a National Communications Honor Society -Treasurer for GSACS, at CSU, Fullerton -Member of Los Amigos of Orange County