Written by Jenn Speight
Many students are rallying around a national reform bill, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). The bill will reach Washington, D.C. on May 1 and several Goshen College students plan to be there.
The aim of the DREAM Act is to aid minors brought by their parents to the U. S. as undocumented immigrants, in attaining the opportunities that their peers have: things like a high school diploma, college degree and the potential to work in the U. S., things you cannot do without a social security number. If the DREAM Act passes it would permit a select group of undocumented students conditional status and eventual citizenship.
Jheny Nieto is a Goshen College senior helping to organize the Goshen movement.
“I see this not as a movement for Latinos, not as a movement for those without documents,” Nieto stated with passion, “but as a movement for everyone who is growing aware of the necessity for these human rights. For members of our community who have made their homes here.”
Many of the students the DREAM Act would benefit have given up in the past.
Nieto tells the story of a woman and her 19-year-old son who were recently arrested. Neither of them had documents. The day before the son was arrested, he’d pleaded with his mother to allow him to return to Mexico. He was brought to the United States at age three, but he lacked opportunities here. Though he graduated from high school with a solid grade point average and top scores, he was unable to be admitted to college due to his undocumented status. The day after this conversation with his mother, he was arrested.
“There is no one story that is representative of the movement,” said Nieto. The stories are so widespread that no one story will do it justice.
Nieto’s story is somewhat similar. She was brought to the U. S. at the age of 12, along with her sister, who is four years younger. Running into the night, Nieto, her sister and her parents left their hotel room and began the journey to cross the border.
“The next thing I knew,” Nieto said, “my dad was pulling on my hand and we were climbing this wall. There has been nothing in my life that has been this powerful, because you’re sitting on this wall that divides almost two separate worlds: the opportunity versus starvation. Once we crossed over, we just ran on this green, beautiful field where the sprinklers were going and on the other side of the wall back in Mexico, there was trash on the ground and people were begging for food. Right away you see the difference.”
Nieto now has her documentation.
Her mother is a survivor of domestic violence, and a result of that experience is that Nieto, her sister and mother all have visas. Because of this, Nieto can now work legally in the United States and attend school. Her personal attainment, however, doesn’t stop her from wanting to help others.
“That experience of physically crossing a border has been very, very influential to who I am now and [how] I see my role as a student, a woman of color and a community member,” she said.
Nieto is organizing a group, along with some of the Goshen College “DREAMers”, to attend the rally in Washington, D.C. on May 1. She is most excited about seeing the DREAM walkers, a group of people who are walking 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington, D.C. in order to rally. May 1 is the date of the decision on the passing of the DREAM Act. Jheny admits that she is nervous. As is, the Immigration Reform doesn’t look like it will pass, and the DREAM Act is a part of that bill.
Either way, the “DREAMers” plan to come out with their heads held high. If the bill doesn’t pass this year, the group said, the movement won’t stop. It will simply grow more intense.
If you want to get involved, contact Jheny Nieto at email@example.com or go to the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning office and ask about the Goshen College DREAMers.