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Take Part in the DREAM Sabbath

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Aug 18, 2011

mayraMayra Hidalgo is a DREAM student from Lakeland, Florida.

The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Thursday, August 18, 2011. You can sign-up for these emails here.

I remember sitting in my guidance counselor’s office for my senior conference, nervously fidgeting as I waited for her to return from making copies of my high school transcripts. She returned with the copies, speaking quickly about this university and that deadline, telling me, “Oh, this scholarship would be perfect for you,” and finally, “Now for your financial aid form.” I froze, realizing the answers to financial aid questions would determine the direction and pace of my future. After much fumbling and talking in circles, I managed to articulate, “I am undocumented” aloud for the first time in my life. An awkward pause ensued, and I felt my entire face go hot as I anxiously waited for her reaction.

“Well, you’re illegal and there’s no options for you here,” she told me.

I let the words wash over me, and watched sadly as she closed the manila folder with my name on it and shoved it in the filing cabinet. I wanted nothing more than to leave her office, but it seemed to be forever until I could bring myself to move.

My story, sadly, is all-too-common in the United States. That’s why I am asking faith communities across the country to join me this fall in taking part in the DREAM Sabbath campaign. Together, we are advocating for the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented young adults brought to the United States as children who complete two years of college or military service.

Click here to learn more about DREAM Sabbath and sign up to get involved.

I came to the United States when I was 6 months old from Costa Rica. My family was escaping economic hardship. A year after my father had made his way here, my mother followed, bringing my brother, sister, and myself. I led a very rich childhood in Lakeland, Florida, living with two parents who loved me and never hesitated to say so, and with two older siblings who protected me. I attended elementary, middle, and high school here, working hard in school so that all my parents’ sacrifices would be repaid generously when I would have a career, and be the first to get a college degree. I graduated from Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, and was accepted into every university in Florida. I was even accepted into Florida State’s voice performance program with the dream of becoming a music teacher in low-income communities of color. Unfortunately, not being eligible for financial aid and not being able to legally work or drive in the only country I knew, I had to put these dreams on halt.

In 2009, when I first learned about the DREAM Act, it was like a beacon of hope for me, leading my way out of the shadows of the oppression I was living in to become a leader and champion for my community. It wasn’t just about young people like me trying to pass legislation, but about a national movement to try to save future potential in this country: stopping the separation of families, getting young people out of detention, and stopping the lucrative industry of prison corporations that kept lobbying congress to pass harsh and punitive immigration laws with no other aim but to fill up detention centers for profit.

As Unitarian Universalists around the country unite to stand up for justice, I urge you to join in solidarity with the DREAM Sabbath campaign taking place this fall. Get involved and you can help:

–Raise awareness in your congregation about the injustices against immigrant students and their families

–Open a safe space for community members to express the abuses they are facing so that they may be documented.

–Pressure your legislators to no longer be manipulated by business interests that just want more jails and detention centers.

In 2009, the legislation passed the House of Representatives and had majority support in the Senate, falling just a few votes short of ending a filibuster.

Sign up to take part in a network of faith communities across the country working to pass the DREAM Act.

Click here to lend your support.

Together, we can defend our community and stand up for the people that have worked so hard to build it. Together, we can ensure that the dreams of young people like me, all across this country, can become a reality.

6 Responses to “Take Part in the DREAM Sabbath”

  1. I’m thinking, “Wow… heartbreaking.”
    Then I wanted to respond …
    “That guidance councilor was incompetent, she should have told you your options:
    1) Apply for a work visa, and earn citizenship like everyone else.
    2) Marry a U.S. Citizen
    3) Go to UUA.org and beg the US for mercy
    4) Go back to Costa Rica with your US Education and take over that fair an beautiful country, make it better than the USA.
    5) Join the US Military as a Foreign National and earn U.S. Citizenship in Iraq or Libia.
    6) Become an undocumented worker and save money to send to Costa Rica and buy property, become rich and move home.
    7) Write your US Congressman (oops, you don’t have one).
    8) etc.”

    The immigration issues in the USA and Social Justice issues around the world are complex and emotional manipulations don’t actually help unite people, they just inflame their actions.

    If you want to create solutions, you need to open the door to public dialog, set ground-rules for civility, and explain your case.

    Why should people who ran away from their home, because of ‘economic hardship’, gain access to US education without going through the same process as everyone else?

    Why should the USA Pay for the education of children whose parents broke the law, even if it was for a good reason? Where do US Citizens suffering ‘economic hardship’ run away to?

    Thanks for providing a place to post my thoughts and continue the dialog.

    I’d like to see your Articles of Inc., Bylaws, and 990 tax forms online with your Mission Statement, a statement of values, and purpose. As a charity for public benefit you gain tax-exempt status, and I’d like to know how much you pay your top 10 employees, and if they are Citizens of the US or not?

    US Citizenship takes great courage. You have to agree to follow laws, and fight for this nation, even when the laws are our cause is wrong, and you risk imprisonment if you decide to object.

    As a US Citizen from a nation of immigrants I empathize with those kids who find upon reaching adult-hood that they have no status. I was born into this nation without my knowledge, and asked to follow its rules without my permission, to fight its wars without my approval. This is no different anywhere on the globe. The solution is not to run away, it is to engage in the conflict and you can’t do that if there is no dialog.

  2. Erik says:

    For one thing, these undocumented citizens don’t benefit from tax-exempt status. They pay income taxes, just like us, which agglomerates in the Social Security Administration’s “suspense file,” which is specifically for taxes that cannot be pegged to worker’s names and SSNs. They pay federal, state and local taxes as well, which some studies show range from $90-$140 billion a year.

    Now that your money isn’t up for grabs, let’s talk about a line you wrote. “I was born into this nation without my knowledge.” But let’s also acknowledge the civil liberties that innately followed your birth into this nation. We are one of the best off nations, by far. Despite our debt, our “poor” still have kitchens full of microwaves, refrigerators, and ovens. This doesn’t seem very poor to me. So this “economic hardship” you reference—we haven’t seen anything, yet. Simply put, we’re beyond privileged, and we should thank our higher-spiritual-being-of-choice every day for it.

    We grow up in a society bloated with media and films that portray stories so gruesome and sad; we appear to have forgotten how to empathize with actual human injustices. Immigration laws have changed drastically over the past two decades, and it’s easy to assume that these undocumented citizens crossed the border with a sombrero and a bindle stick, but the simple fact is, that’s what right-wing media spoon feeds us. Many are here on visas, and as these laws have gotten stricter (esp. after 9/11) many have simply overstayed their visa and either missed a small window of opportunity for citizenship, or it simply wasn’t accessible.

    I will give you credit for some of the brain storming ideas you came up with for her to gain citizenship. Yeah, she can get married, but for an independent woman, it’s asking a lot to throw your ring figure out in a mad dash. And go back to Costa Rica? Sure, that may sound exotic to an American like you, knowing you could come back whenever you want, but for her, she would be sucked into an entirely new world, culture and environment, and would be unable to come back to see her friends, family and loved ones for more than a decade.

    If I came off as aggressive in any way, I do apologize. I get riled up over simple “black and white” assumptions on what immigration is. I do agree that the dialogue should remain open, but I also believe this young lady has already “open[ed] the door to public dialog, set ground-rules for civility, and explain[ed her] case,” and continues to do so every day. Once again, remember to give thanks that you never had to be brought unwillingly into such a confounding situation.

  3. Felipe Matos says:

    Hi Michael,

    Just a few words to enlighten you about the immigration system of this country.

    1) Apply for a work visa, and earn citizenship like everyone else.

    Once you become an undocumented immigrant you can’t just walk to USCIS and ask to stay in the country through a work visa. If there was a process I’m sure that Mayra and all of the other 10 million undocumented immigrants in the US would have applied. Nobody chooses to stay undocumented in this country. There is no viable way for people to go through an immigration process to achieve legal status. Please study the law that you seem to be so attached to before making uneducated comments about it.

    2) Marry a U.S. Citizen

    This is a great recommendation. You’re telling this young girl to go find herself an American citizen and get married or even worse commit fraud by marrying to get her papers. I don’t think I have to go too far to prove that this is not sensible but most importantly humane. People’s right to live in freedom and to be able to fulfill their purpose in this world should not be linked to whom they married. Arranged marriage is unacceptable for at least one hundred years in the West.

    3) Go to UUA.org and beg the US for mercy

    What does this even mean? So by sharing her story to educate the public about the hardships of undocumented immigrants she is begging for mercy. Sir, democracies can only work if everyone participate. Her participation is something to be proud of! The founding fathers are rolling in their graves now with this comment.

    4) Go back to Costa Rica with your US Education and take over that fair an beautiful country, make it better than the USA.

    I have never been to Costa Rica but the fact that Mayra came as young infant makes her know that country just as well as I do, which means that she doesn’t know anything about it. The US is her home and she has contributed tremendously to this country. Once again your arguement is flawed.

    5) Join the US Military as a Foreign National and earn U.S. Citizenship in Iraq or Libia.

    It doesn’t seem that the military is a path that Mayra wants to take but instead she wants to serve this country by teaching in low income neighborhoods. There’s nothing more American for someone to do than to fight a war against poverty through educating our children. However, even if she wished to serve in the military she wouldn’t be allowed. According to regulation you need legal status to enlist. Remember to read the regulation before making comments that don’t correspond with the truth.

    6) Become an undocumented worker and save money to send to Costa Rica and buy property, become rich and move home.

    Undocumented workers are exploited and many times underpaid. So becoming rich is not a possibility for Mayra if her only hope would be to work under table.

    7) Write your US Congressman (oops, you don’t have one).
    I would like to remind you that US Congresspeople represent everyone who lives in their district including Mayra or any undocumented person.

    I won’t go any further but Michael I will just ask that next time you don;t make a fool of yourself please read the facts. Don’t just cite what you hear on TV.

  4. Pedro Lopes says:


    Unfortunately the solution in never quite that simple. Immigration laws are very complex and case specific – your list seems to be tongue and cheek, but none of those solutions are viable for most people though perhaps you hear about the rare case here and there.

    Undocumented youth hear these comments quite often, in fact all immigrants do, “go back home and do such and such there”.

    As it turns out, the United States is “home” for most of us. And that is precisely the point. In this particular case, we are talking about Dreamers. Dreamers are young people who were brought to the United States at a young age (younger than 15), and unfortunately are marginalized, unable to drive, work, or go to school because of their immigration status.

    These children did not “run away” from their homes. Many, like Mayra, were 6 months old and could not even walk yet, much less run away from home. We are raised here, learn the language, work, volunteer, become involved in the political process, make friends, fall in love, and want merely the opportunity to be productive members of American society. Imagine being sent “home” to a country you haven’t been to in years, where you don’t have any close family, where you don’t speak the language, where you don’t have diplomas or other documentation to even start a life?

    We are also educated here, which brings me to your next point: Immigrants do pay taxes, and therefore pay to go to school. Schools are funded by property, sales, and income taxes. Even undocumented immigrants pay all of those – We need a place to live, so we pay taxes on our rental/property, we also need to shop for food, clothing, and other taxable commodities, so we pay sales taxes too. Undocumented immigrants pay income tax through the following form – http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw7.pdf. In fact, since undocumented immigrants are not eligible for social benefits, the IRS has billions of dollars in “surplus” that comes in from taxes paid by undocumented immigrants.

    You write “US Citizenship takes great courage. You have to agree to follow laws, and fight for this nation, even when the laws are our cause is wrong, and you risk imprisonment if you decide to object.” I like this paragraph because it’s exactly what the DREAM Act is all about. DREAMers are asking to be allowed to join the military, get an education and apply their skills to this nation rather than taking the education received here and using it somewhere else. Not only that, part of the DREAM act is a hefty fine that comes along with it to rectify any financial hardship Americans might have incurred. The DREAM act also has a very strict background check and good moral character requirement. So willingness and unwavering commitment to follow US laws is a prerequisite for regularization – those who are not committed to this nation and its laws cannot even apply for the DREAM act.

    Every time a DREAMER speaks she or he is risking imprisonment, the end of life as they know it, separation from all their loved ones,an end to their education, among many other things. The great courage you mentioned is already here, a DREAMer risks life by speaking, all for the opportunity to be engaged members of society.

    In fact, DREAMers are already even committed to fight and die for this nation – all males register for selective service.

    We are hopefully opening up dialogue in many fronts. Sometimes we have to shout to open up that dialogue, because we are often silenced by politicians, ICE, and prejudice. The DREAM Sabbath is one more way to open up discussion. If you have any questions about the immigration process, DREAMERS, or anything else please feel free to contact us through the “contact us” link in our website http://www.flairr.org, and I would be happy to engage in very open dialogue with you or anyone else that you believe might be interested on this issue.

  5. Edwin says:

    There used to be a time when Americans felt shame in light of the indentured servitude that took place here.

    It lead to laws against allowing people to sell themselves into financial slavery.

    We benefit from this new indentured servitude and are coconspirators in the the system the foments it. We buy the goods that the industries that engage in these practices at low prices and our laws make it cheaper to simply pay a fine in the unlikely event that our laws are enforced. We are as responsible as a society for this problem as any mob is of the activities of the syndicate.

    The amazing thing is that on top of the kind of moral depravity that blames victims for a system that we are complicit in, we are actually giving into racist xenophobia and driving resources from the education of our children to a private prison industry not to end immigration, but to privatize public monies to provide resources with which to perpetuate this whole immoral system.

    This system is not been running this long because Americans are being taken advantage of, but rather because it has taken this long to degenerate from a society that was ashamed of indentured servitude to one capable of actually believing that we are the ones being taken advantage of.

  6. [...] up a payment schedule as a part of assessing the good moral character requirement for citizenship. Am I still eligible for US citizenship even though I owe back child support?rt? My daughter is 19 years old and she is [...]

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