Lee students encouraged to send letters to Congress in support of DACA
This upcoming Tuesday, Nov. 28, Lee students, faculty and members of the community are invited to support the lives of undocumented young adults at Camino de Sueños, or “Pilgrimage of Dreams”— a nationwide event.
Held in the Walker lecture hall of the Science and Math Complex at 5 pm, the event will focus on writing and sending cards to Congress as well as hearing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) perspective.
At Camino de Sueños, people will be encouraged to write their dreams and hopes for Dreamers on an index card. Dreamers themselves are encouraged to write on a yellow index card, while everyone else will write on a green card. A booth will be set up after chapel for those who would like to write a card but cannot attend the evening event.
Attendees will also be urged to share personal stories and artwork. The items will then be gathered and shipped to the Christian Community Development Association, where the letters will be taken to Congress on Dec. 5.
Alejandra Guajardo, a senior bible and theology major, is actively involved in bringing awareness to the DACA program on Lee’s campus.
“We must have place to voice our concerns and take action,” said Guajardo. “Having our hearts moved towards our students is only the initial stage of progress. We must do something."
Camino Del Suenos will consist of a prayer and devotional by Cuellar, a talk from Dr. Jared Wielfaert, music by Professor José Ruiz and Dreamer-inspired artwork by Lee art students.
Camino de Sueños comes on the wave of major pushback against phasing out the Dreamer program. The decision to continue or end the DACA program will have a lifetime impact on those who were brought to America at a young age and consider it their home.
According to CNN, more than 700,000 people could be impacted if Congress chooses to phase out the DACA program. The DACA program granted legal ability to work and protection from deportation to undocumented persons who were illegally brought into the country as children.
While not a DACA student herself, Guajardo shared the burden of her DACA peers.
“Many of my friends are DACA; therefore, their problems are my problems too,” said Guajardo. “My documents do not make a difference between us because our struggles are similar and we share the same goals.”
In September, the Trump administration gave Congress the option to choose whether or not the DACA program would continue.
Determined to sway Congress' decision, the Christian Community Development Association— a network of Christians dedicated to restoring under-resourced communities— invited people throughout the nation to host Camino de Sueños events. Part of the CCDA's mission is helping the immigrant community.
Originally from Peru, Dr. Rolando Cuellar, associate professor of intercultural studies at Lee, said he encourages individuals to attend the event in solidarity with the Dreamers that walk Lee's campus.
“Those that are able to vote and fill the cards, show support,” Cuellar said. “Show solidarity with these student DACA recipients. They need to be here. They already have been and are contributing to the greatness of this country.”
Cuellar said he is concerned for DACA students if Congress chooses to phase out the program.
“These young people will be without protection and subject to deportation,” shared Cuellar. “They consider this country theirs. They do not know any other country.”
While DACA students will be permitted to stay in college if DACA phases out, they will not be allowed to work once their work permits expire.
And Dr. Carolyn Dirksen, director of Faculty Development and distinguished professor of English, said DACA students need to have the ability to work while in school.
“They pay out of pocket which means they really need to work,” Dirksen said. “Even if they can stay in school, if their work permits expire there is no source of money.”
According to Dirksen, even qualifying for scholarships is difficult for DACA students.
“They cannot apply for anything that requires citizenship or legal residency, and they cannot apply for anything that requires FAFSA, which brings the amount of scholarships down to a very small number,” Dirksen said.
Dr. Dirksen is set to kick off Camino Del Suenos on Lee’s campus in coordination with chapel speaker Noel Castellano. Castellano is the director of the CCDA and will speak in the Conn Center for chapel on Tuesday.
And while Dirksen realizes not everyone is on board with DACA, she encourages students to come hear the stories from their fellow students.
“If you just want to know more about this and you don’t feel like you are ready to write a card to your congressman, you can come anyway and just hear these people’s stories and get a better feel for the perspective of the immigrant community,” Dirksen said.
For more information about the CCDA and Camino de Sueños, visit ccda.org/camino-de-suenos.