DANBURY — “I am sick of thinking what it means to be undocumented when I know I am American”. This was theme that Lorella Praeli, an undocumented student at Quinnipiac University, and others in her position shared with the community at an event this past Saturday at Western Connecticut State University. The event, entitled “Undocumented Americans: CT DREAMers Step Out of the Shadows” was sponsored by Connecticut Students for a DREAM, a student-run organization in Connecticut, and it was Connecticut’s first “Stepping Out of the Shadows” event. This event was sponsored by WCSU’s IMPACT Club, a multicultural student organization on campus. The event was held in support of the federal Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act and an In-State Tuition Bill for CT undocumented students. The DREAM Act is a bipartisan piece of legislation that would give qualified youth brought to this country illegally be their parents at a young age, a pathway to legalization.
At the event, six undocumented students, or DREAMers as they call themselves, all students at WCSU, Quinnipiac University, Yale University, and Norwalk Community College came out to the community as undocumented and shared their stories of hardship, struggle and triumph. Stories about growing up in the country they call home but where current immigration law undermines their sense of identity, their talents, and their aspirations, and disregards the vital contributions they make to their communities. Hafid Dumet, an undocumented student at WCSU, recounted the struggles he has faced, “I found myself demoralized because the plans I had since I was a child, to become a lawyer, an accountant, or a leader in my community, did not seem a possibility. However, I was determined to do something for myself and my community, that I had considered my home”.
These are students who want to serve their country, that want to be productive members of society, but for the moment their status prevents them from achieving their full potential. Lucas, an undocumented student from Norwalk Community College sharing his story for the first time, said that he has “a dream to work for government and work for justice, but if the DREAM Act doesn’t pass, it won’t come true”. The stories of these students highlight the fact that they are American in every sense of word, except for a piece of paper, Maria Praeli a junior at New Milford High School said that “I look on myself like I’m an American. I got tested on America History, not Peru’s history. I’ve been here for so long, that I don’t even remember what my home country looks like”. Guest Speaker and Editor of the Tribuna CT Newspaper, Emanuela Lima, summed it best when she said, DREAMers are the “perfect immigrant; assimilated, speak English, love this country and want to serve it”.
The goal of the event was to raise awareness of the DREAM Act and undocumented students, which could not have come at a more opportune time because both the House and the Senate are scheduled to vote on the DREAM Act this upcoming week.
Camila Bortolleto, an undocumented WCSU graduate, stated that the DREAM Act “is not just about politics, it is not about immigration, it is about our communities, our country, and the lives and futures of students who are indistinguishable from their fellow peers.”
Tati Lam, an undocumented student at Yale University “it’s the humane thing to for my parents, who just wasnted ot give me a better eduaiton, it’s the humane thing to do for people int his country was are getting stoped for not looing America. Its simply the maerican thing to do”
Today we sya no to law that undermine our sense of identiies an docntributions. Today we say enough and demand full recognizations as the Americans we are”
I found myself losing hope and feeling defeated, I din;t want to talk about college or my future. When I go to pick up a application, I see the reqiremetn for a social security number and simply theor away the application w desapointe breath. As people talk about the colleges they want to go while I udually don’t join in be I feel like I have no options, I find myself not wanting to talk about schools I want to go to because th” students whose first language is English, students who take honors classes,
Today we say no to laws that undermine our sense of identiies an docntributions. Today we say enough and demand full recognizations as the Americans we are” I ondt want to live like this anyone and neither to the others, I cant’ vote but I will do what it takes to get this passed. I am sick of thinking whwat it means when Im undocumented when I know I am American.
We will also be staging a food drive to collect food donations for a local Danbury food pantry, showing how undocumented immigrants give back to their communities, even when they are denied active participation in it.
Camila Bortolleto is a senior at Western Connecticut State University and a part of a new, local, youth-led immigrant-rights and social justice group called Connecticut Students for a DREAM.