I stand before you as a person who had the privilege of knowing and working with many young people from either Mexico or Guatemala from 2002 to 2008. These were the years I served as the pastoral administrator of St. Bridget’s in Postville. Yes, I experienced and still feel the trauma of the infamous immigration raid at Agriprocessors in May 2008.
Due to the immigration raid many of my young friends were deported—I often had to stand at a bus, hug them, say good bye to them, their parents, aunts and uncles. And always, as I said goodbye, I would express sorrow and ask forgiveness for the way our country had treated them.
Fortunately, I did not have to say goodbye to all. A few were able to remain. These are my friends who received DACA standing. They are our DREAMERS. They are young men and women who have worked hard, cared for younger brothers and sisters, respected the rule of law, contributed to their neighborhoods, have received college educations, are gainfully employed and are contributing very special gifts to our country.
And now these same friends of mine, due to Trump’s rescinding of the DACA program, are living in fear. They are stressed. They are confused but I am here to tell you that they are not giving up. There is a fire burning within them and there is a fire burning within me.
Permit me to share the story of one of my friends. The following is her testimony.
The heartbreaking actions we witnessed on September 5th by President Trump are truly devastating to all DACA beneficiaries. I feel those doors that once opened so widely are slowly closing. Now that it has been rescinded it leaves us all with constant fear and questions of what will happen next.
DACA served as a step forward to a brighter future. It opened doors I never dreamed of. I was eligible to obtain a driver’s license, apply to receive a higher education, apply for a car loan, contribute to our economy, apply for any employment I felt attracted to, and more importantly, I felt a sense of security knowing I would not be deported.
I was 8 months old when I came to the States. I will be 26 this year. I grew up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and proudly singing the National Anthem. I grew up playing my trumpet on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. I grew up devouring apple pie. I grew up studying American history. I grew up learning what it means to be an American. I am an American.
DACA has been an extraordinary gift to me. I now ask congress that a more permanent solution be created for all of us to further our highest potential and to continue to positively impact our communities and country. I ask that our communities continue to show support to all DACA beneficiaries. We are united. We are strong. Our voices will be heard.
Yes, the voices of these young men and women are filled with HOPE and DETERMINATION. Their hope stems from knowing people like all of you who have gathered today in Dubuque’s Town Clock Plaza and in myriad other Parks and Plazas throughout the country. They are counting on us to use our voice, our wisdom, our innate call to affirm the dignity of all people, as well as, our political power to pressure our legislators to pass the DREAM ACT.
Thank you for your presence here this afternoon, for your evident commitment, for your concern for my friends.
May the same fire that is burning within me—within our Dreamers—burn within you! Thank you.