This past spring break, 11 Goshen College students traveled to LeGrange, Georgia to show their support for the Dream Act, an immigration reform bill by walking alongside the "Dream Walkers" for 10 miles.
The Dream Walkers walk 1,500 miles each year from Miami, Florida to Washington, D.C. to bring a voice to immigrant students who are unable to attend college because they are undocumented. For the Goshen students it was a chance to show support for underprivileged peers.
Emma Brooks, a first-year, said, “they are amazingly smart and talented individuals that cannot succeed because of where they were born, while I am able to succeed mostly just because of where I was born.”
Many immigrant children have lived in the United States their entire life. In many cases, students graduate high school at the top of their class but because they do not have the right papers they can’t attend college, apply for financial aid or afford to pay on their own. If passed, the Dream Act would grant immigrant high school graduates temporary residence for six years to allow them to go to college or serve in the armed forces.
While in Georgia, GC students stayed in the Alterna Community in LeGrange. The Alterna Community is a residential street made up of families living in solidarity with immigrants. The students did service for the community during their stay, painting murals, making chicken coops and doing yard-work.
The Dream Walkers, faced more than exhaustion on their 1,500 mile walk. Many people yelled obscenities as they passed, but the Dream Walkers were not alone as many students from different colleges and entire churches walked alongside them.
The Goshen students also got a chance to visit the Steward Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia where 1,600 undocumented immigrants are detained while they wait to be deported. The students were able to visit with the detainees but were separated by a fence.
“Visiting the detention centers was heartbreaking, eye-opening and angering," Brooks said. "I was so sad that we were Noe's (a detainee) first visitors in three months.”
For first-year Lynelle Yoder, the experience was more than just a chance to learn about what others go through.
“[For me] this experience meant that I learned a new way to live out my faith-- by fighting to give citizenship, and consequently equal opportunities which can lead to better lives, to those that Jesus tells us to love.”