No DREAM for Yesica

The Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors Act, known as the Dream Act, was recently turned down by the Senate on Saturday as it failed to reach the required number of votes.

This law would have given undocumented students the opportunity to apply for citizenship after meeting a list of requirements, which include: completing at least two years of college, must have come to the U.S. at the age of fifteen or younger, graduated from high school or obtained a GED, have good moral character, and applied between the ages 12 and 25. The law was first introduced in Congress on August 1, 2001, and again, twice more on July 31, 2003, and November 28, 2005, but it didn’t show any signs of progress until March 6, 2007 when it was last deliberated. Without this law thousands of young immigrants will not be able to legally work, drive or travel.

My parents and I have been following the progress of the bill since it was last debated. It’s like watching a soccer match except there’s nothing to celebrate at the end. I came to Queens, New York with my parents at the age of six. I haven’t seen the rest of my family since then and cannot visit. I’ve attended grades one through twelve and I’m currently in my second year of college. I realized around the age of thirteen, from an ominous sick feeling at the pit of my stomach, that one day I would be faced with certain challenges I wouldn’t be able to surpass. I was not aware of any of the laws, but from watching my parents struggle with work, I knew it would be just as difficult for me.         

Reality loomed during my junior year of high school when the pressure was on to start looking into colleges. I was not excited or worried like the rest of my classmates, because I knew my options would be limited. I tried not to think about it while I attended my school’s college fair or eagerly listened to what it was like to be financially independent from parents, as most of my friends started working part time jobs and obtaining driving permits.

I was depressed and anxious for a while after graduating. I didn’t see the point in trying to do anything if the chances of leading a normal life were slim. All I kept seeing were restrictions. What did working hard matter if I probably wouldn’t be able to get a job after graduating anyway? I just wanted to be financially independent from my parents so I could move out and start life. Finally turning eighteen was like receiving a motorcycle to leave, and then finding out I did not meet specific requirements, and as a result, had no key to start the ignition.

I couldn’t afford to pay my tuition so I had to take a year off from school. My sources of comfort were reading and taking pictures. I was accepted this past fall to an Art &Design school. I’m fortunate to have in-state tuition, a small scholarship, a helping uncle and friends.

I’m sure there are kids that probably struggle more to pay for school. When I tell my peers I don’t fill out a FAFSA form, they immediately assume I’m wealthy until I explain that I can’t apply because I’m not a citizen. Most say they wouldn’t even go to school if they didn’t receive financial aid.  

Hopefully the Dream Act will be passed during this upcoming decade. All I can do is hope that the work and sacrifices other undocumented students and I make every year will pay off someday. And when they do, we’ll all hopefully be able to look back and say, “It was worth it.”