Hundreds of protesters on both sides of the border made it clear that their dreams are alive.
Students on both sides of the Otay Mesa Border Crossing shared their dreams. They dreamed that deported students could go back to their homes in the United States.
That dream remains alive even if the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is dead, at least for now. Even a balky Congress could not quash the dream.
Wearing graduation caps and gowns, a delegation of DREAMers who grew up in America but were deported looked to end their nightmares as they lined up on the Mexican side of la linea.
About 100 DREAMers had a clear message for President Obama, “Aqui comienza la reforma migratoria” (Immigration reform starts here). In el norte, protestors from the National Immigrant Youth Alliance gathered on the U.S. side of the border to support those in el sur trying to regain their lives as American students.
Border Angels founder Enrique Morones supported the protesters.
“Right now what’s being practiced here in the United States is not humane immigration policy,” he said. “How is it possible that these families are separated from their loved ones? How is it possible that this country goes around preaching human rights, but because of a broken taillight (deported students) never see their parents again?”
Dulce Guerrero, 21, helped put the protest together. It drew participants from as far as Washington, North Carolina, Ohio and her hometown of Atlanta.
“I feel like it’s very important for families to be united, especially families who were separated through deportation,” she said. “I think it’s very important to make sure that they are reunited here in the United States for their safety, for the sake of the children.” Fatima Gallegos said her family was torn apart by America’s immigration policies. She travelled to the Otay crossing from Phoenix with her daughter, Herminia, to speak on behalf of her brother, who was deported. Despite deep resistance from Republicans in the U.S. Congress, she said she remains optimistic.
“The day they took him I didn’t have a chance to see him because I couldn’t get there in time,” she said. “I’m really excited and really energetic. I know my brother is going to come home.”
As Gallegos and the rest of the protesters waited, Brian Borya was trying to cross. The 22-year-old DREAMer said he came to the United States at the age of two when his mom crossed without inspection. He lived in New Jersey until he was deported to his native Columbia two years ago.
“One day I was traveling on a Greyhound (bus),” Borya said. “A Border Patrol agent was asking for documents I didn’t have and he took me into custody.”
Borya said after a month of being in an INS detention center he had a hearing before a judge. He said he was deported the same week Obama announced he would freeze deportations for potential DREAMers.
“The judge told me I would have to sign a voluntary departure or (he would) deport me anyway and that (the DREAM Act) is only a dream and it will never become a reality,” he said. “I’m asking for political asylum to return to my home (in the United States), my country that I consider my home. We all deserve to go home.”
Kimberly Sotelo said she hoped to return to her home in the Washington. She lived in the United States for 17 years and could not go back home once she crossed the border to Mexico.
“I felt I didn’t have a future in the United States,” said Sotelo. “They don’t let us get into college if you don’t have a social security number. If you don’t have money, you can ask for scholarships or financial aid, but I couldn’t, so I decided to go back to Mexico.”
Sotelo said after her visa was rejected four times she felt unwanted by both countries.
“I’m Mexican, but I can’t read or write (in Spanish),” she said. “My Spanish is pocho. My home is the United States with my parents and sisters.”
Sotelo said after two years of being alone in a foreign land and two years of not seeing her family, she is asking for permission to be with them, work and go to school.
“My parents support me and they told me that if I think [this movement]is going to help me, then I should do it because I have nothing to lose,” she said.
Macrina Cardenas is a volunteer at La Casa del Migrante in Tijuana. She said this movement is a way to educate Americans about the injustices immigrants endure.
“The United States has recognized that immigrants are big (contributors to) the American economy,” she said. “When these people are deported and expelled from the country, America is not recognizing those contributions.”
Cardenas said she witnessed many cases of civil rights violations and family separations.
“These people have given a lot to the economy and at the end their essential right is being violated which is the right for parents and children to live together,” she said.
The rate of deportees during the Obama administration has been the highest ever, said Cardenas, even though Latino voters helped him win the presidential elections in 2008 and 2012. On the American side of the border, protesters chanted, “Obama, Obama! Don’t deport my momma!”
“I think the president doesn’t even know about the suffering he is causing by separating these families,” said Cardenas. “The American government and society promote family values on one hand, but on the other hand they are separating families. This is the question I would ask to each American family: If they separate you from your children, who wouldn’t want to come back?”
Not everyone on the American side of the border was supportive of reuniting the families. A lone protester, who withheld her name, set up across the street from the DREAMers and waved a massive American flag as she chanted through her megaphone.
“You are illegal, you are criminal! You are illegal, you are criminal!”
The DREAMers quickly responded with their own rallying cry.
“No human is illegal! No human is illegal!”
Jose Conchas, a University of Arizona student, said DREAMers would not be deterred.
“We don’t care (about counterprotesters),” he said. “We’ve been through so much in this fight with people who do not (agree with us), we don’t care. Their messages are irrelevant because they take the humanity out of it. That’s one of our main values. Every person is a human. Families are families and not something to be separated.”
Morones said Latinos have been wonderful Americans who have served in the military, earned college degrees and contributed to the economy. Still, he said, they have historically been made to feel unwelcomed.
“What happened to our Statue of Liberty?” he said. “Those people with European backgrounds had a statue that welcomed them. ‘Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.’ We don’t have that, we have a wall.”
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