Felipe Matos, 23, born in a slum in Brazil, is one of the top 20 community college students in the United States and has just been accepted into Duke University.
Gaby Pacheco, 25, whose parents brought her from Ecuador at 7 years old has three education degrees and dreams of teaching music therapy to autistic children.
Carlos Roa, 22, has been here since he was 2, served in the military, and wants to become an architect.
All three have their dreams on hold.
They are part of the 65,000 high school graduates each year who face uncertain futures because of their undocumented status. For most of them, the United States is the only country they know, since they emigrated at a very young age. But no matter how much they excel in school or sacrifice their lives in the military, they won’t have the ability to apply for student loans or become professionals.
Felipe, Gaby, and Carlos are joining the ranks of undocumented students coming out of the shadows and risking deportation in order to share their struggles and ask for the right to contribute and participate in society. They are joined by Juan Rodriguez, 20, whose parents fled Colombia due to threats to their safety when he was 6, and who after getting US residency with the help of his stepmother a year ago, will finally be able to pursue a degree at the University of Chicago.
The four of them decided to embark on a “Trail of Dreams,” walking the long journey from their home in Miami to Washington, D.C. in order to share their experiences and advocate for the DREAM Act. Reintroduced in 2009, the act would provide conditional legal status for undocumented students who arrived as children and meet certain criteria like attending college or serving in the military.
They have been walking since January 1, 2010, accompanied by marchers in support of the cause. They are currently headed into North Carolina. The group has faced hatred and racist banter from KKK protesters, and marched onto the steps of the office of one of the most notoriously anti-immigrant sheriffs in Georgia. They have brought school children to tears, and inspired mothers to fast in solidarity. People all over the country have been moved to participate in their cities and towns, or virtually on Twitter, and through petitions.
Juan Rodriguez writes on the Trail of Dreams blog:
We must never forget our story that has brought us thus far, nor the stories of those that we carry with us from our lifelong interactions. We must not forget the people of Haiti, who need our support and compassion in this time of plight. We must not forget the fasters in Homestead who are risking EVERYTHING so that we may find peace and security amongst the love and warmth of family. I will walk on… “and as we walk, we shall make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.” -Rev. M. L. King, Jr.
You can follow the walkers on Twitter @trail2010, add your name to the campaign, and follow the journey on their blog.
Read more about Gabriela Garcia, the author of this article, in Matador Member to Watch: Gabriela Garcia.