More than a dozen San Francisco students, politicians and community organizers gathered this morning in front of Mission High School to rally around the DREAM Act. The piece of legislation — expected to go up for congressional vote as early as this week — would give undocumented students a pathway to legal status.
“Let’s hope people in Congress hear us [today],” said Supervisor David Campos, who was once undocumented. Support for the DREAM Act “should transcend party lines,” he continued. “Let’s hope something happens as soon as possible.”
Steve Li, the City College nursing student recently released from incarceration in Arizona, spoke about his experience.
On September 15, “my whole world turned upside down,” he told students.
Immigration agents raided his home, handcuffed him and threw him in a detention cell. He was later transferred to a center in Arizona, where he was only let out one hour a day to see the sun.
“I woke up in jail everyday thinking I should be at school, be with my friends.”
Since his release, he has become a spokesman for the DREAM Act because “I don’t want anyone else to go through what I did.” DREAM stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.
Li considers himself American. “I’m a big Giants fan,” he told Mission Loc@l. “When they won, I was so pissed. People were celebrating and I was there, incarcerated.”
A student named Mario, who is Peruvian and Chinese, also talked about the benefits the DREAM Act would bring.
When he hears people say that undocumented students should go back to their own country, “it brings sadness to me. They are ignorant of our stories and don’t know someone like me.”
Mario’s story began in 2001, when he arrived from Peru. He thought he was coming to the United States for summer vacation, but a few weeks later he was enrolled in elementary school.
He received his bachelor of arts degree from UC Berkeley last May in engineering.
He said his degree hangs on his wall — the only place he has a use for it. Next to it is an engineering training license he received from the State of California.
“It’s funny; I’m licensed but not allowed to do work.”
Eric Guthertz, Mission High’s principal, had only been approached about hosting the event a few days earlier, but agreed immediately because “It’s an important issue for students in our community.”
It’s heartbreaking, he said, when he sees students who have succeeded but cannot go to college because they don’t have the resources.
Numbers estimate that around 20 percent of Mission High’s students are undocumented, but Guthertz believes the number is much higher.
“Anything I can do to support our students, I will,” he said.
One of Guthertz’ students, Ana, spoke out as well.
“We’re not asking for citizenship or a green card. All we want is a chance — a chance to succeed.”
People who hold the power to pass the DREAM Act “don’t know the sacrifices we’re making,” she said.
Tomorrow, November 30, is a national day of action for the DREAM Act .
Throughout the rally, participants chanted “DREAM Act now!” several times.
Ana had her own plea.
“Please hear us. There are a lot of us kids.”