July 24, 2012

DREAM Act Stories

Most weeks that the Senate is in session, Senator Dick Durbin tells the stories of the talented immigrant students who would be eligible for the DREAM Act. Read their stories and watch Senator Durbin tell their stories on the Senate floor below. For more information about the DREAM Act, click here. To share your own story, click here.

 

Pierre Berastain

 

Pierre Berastain

Read Pierre' story in the

Congressional Record.

Pierre Berastain

Watch Senator Durbin share Pierre's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Pierre and his sister were brought to the United States by their parents from Peru when they were children.  He didn’t speak a word of English when he first arrived in Carrollton, Texas, but he worked hard and quickly became fluent.  He excelled academically and was accepted into the Academy of Biomedical Professions in his high school.

 

In 2006, Pierre was accepted at Harvard College, one of the best schools in the country.  He went on to obtain his Bachelors degree with honors.  He is currently pursuing a Masters degree at Harvard Divinity School.  In addition to working on his graduate degree, Pierre is active in his community.  Among many other volunteer activities, Pierre works at Renewal House, a domestic violence shelter in Boston.  Because of his volunteer work, Pierre was awarded the Thomas E. Upham Scholarship, which is given to an outstanding Harvard graduate student committed to public service.

 

Pierre recently wrote an article about growing up as an undocumented immigrant.  This is what he said:

 

“I am not a criminal, a monster, a predator, or someone who sits at home doing nothing substantive or meaningful.  I care for this country; I care for its successes as well as its struggles, for its joys as well as its sorrows.  I am not asking that our government maintain an open-door policy for immigrants.  I am simply asking that it give an opportunity to those of us who have proven ourselves.”

 

Pierre is right.  America needs young people like him, who love their country and are dedicated to caring for our society’s most vulnerable.


 

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Carlos Martinez

 

Carlos Martinez

Read Carlos' story in the

Congressional Record.

Carlos Martinez

Watch Senator Durbin share Carlos' story

on the Senate floor.

 

Carlos and his brother were brought to the United States in 1991 when Carlos was only 9 years old.  His father emphasized the importance of studying, and Carlos took his father’s advice to heart.   He graduated ninth in his class at Cholla High School in Tucson, Arizona.

 

Carlos enrolled at the University of Arizona.  Even though he had never owned a computer, Carlos loved math and dreamed of being a computer engineer.  Four years later in 2003, Carlos graduated with a bachelors of science in Computer Engineering with minors in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, and Spanish.  He was named the top Hispanic graduate in his class.

 

After Carlos graduated, reality set in.  He received job officers from top tech companies, but couldn’t work because he was undocumented.  But Carlos did not give up on his dream.  He enrolled in a master’s program at the University of Arizona.  He completed the two and a half year program in just a year and a half.  He was also nominated for the University of Arizona Graduate School Centennial Award, given to the school’s top graduate student.

 

Thanks to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), President Obama’s new policy, Carlos will finally be able to work in his field.  He was one of the first people to receive deferred action.  As soon as he received that notification, he went to a career at his alma mater and handed out resumes to the tech companies that first tried to hire him years ago.

 

In a letter Carlos wrote to Senator Durbin, he said, “It was the best news [of] my life.  Finally I would be able to work as a software engineer or own [a] business and create jobs.”

 

Carlos is one of the many Dreamers who are ready to contribute their talent to getting our economy back on track.  As America learns more about the Dreamers in our midst, support will build for passing the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform.


 

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Erika Andiola

 

Erika

Read Erika's story in the

Congressional Record.

Erika

Watch Senator Durbin share Erika's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Erika Andiola was brought to the United States from Mexico when she was eleven years old.  She grew up in Arizona and enrolled in Arizona State University.  Although the state of Arizona later passed a law prohibiting public universities from giving financial aid or in-state tuition to undocumented students, Erika persevered and graduated with honors from Arizona State with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.  Since graduating from college, Erika has been very active in advocating for immigrants and the DREAM Act.  She is the founding President of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition (ADAC).  She dreams of using her psychology degree to one day become a school counselor.

 

It makes no sense to deport Erika back to Mexico, a country she left as a child.  She grew up in this country and has overcome the odds to achieve success.  She continues to contribute to her community in Arizona, and has great potential to give back even more.


 

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Carlos Martinez

 

Carlos Martinez

Read Carlos' story in the

Congressional Record.

Carlos Martinez

Watch Senator Durbin share Carlos' story

on the Senate floor.

 

Carlos and his brother were brought to the United States in 1991 when Carlos was only 9 years old.  His father emphasized the importance of studying, and Carlos took his father’s advice to heart.   He graduated ninth in his class at Cholla High School in Tucson, Arizona.

 

Carlos enrolled at the University of Arizona.  Even though he had never owned a computer, Carlos loved math and dreamed of being a computer engineer.  Four years later in 2003, Carlos graduated with a bachelors of science in Computer Engineering with minors in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, and Spanish.  He was named the top Hispanic graduate in his class.

 

After Carlos graduated, reality set in.  He received job officers from top tech companies, but couldn’t work because he was undocumented.  But Carlos did not give up on his dream.  He enrolled in a master’s program at the University of Arizona.  He completed the two and a half year program in just a year and a half.  He was also nominated for the University of Arizona Graduate School Centennial Award, given to the school’s top graduate student.

 

Thanks to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), President Obama’s new policy, Carlos will finally be able to work in his field.  He was one of the first people to receive deferred action.  As soon as he received that notification, he went to a career at his alma mater and handed out resumes to the tech companies that first tried to hire him years ago.

 

In a letter Carlos wrote to Senator Durbin, he said, “It was the best news [of] my life.  Finally I would be able to work as a software engineer or own [a] business and create jobs.”

 

Carlos is one of the many Dreamers who are ready to contribute their talent to getting our economy back on track.  As America learns more about the Dreamers in our midst, support will build for passing the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform.


 

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Erika Andiola

 

Erika

Read Erika's story in the

Congressional Record.

Erika

Watch Senator Durbin share Erika's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Erika Andiola was brought to the United States from Mexico when she was eleven years old.  She grew up in Arizona and enrolled in Arizona State University.  Although the state of Arizona later passed a law prohibiting public universities from giving financial aid or in-state tuition to undocumented students, Erika persevered and graduated with honors from Arizona State with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.  Since graduating from college, Erika has been very active in advocating for immigrants and the DREAM Act.  She is the founding President of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition (ADAC).  She dreams of using her psychology degree to one day become a school counselor.

 

It makes no sense to deport Erika back to Mexico, a country she left as a child.  She grew up in this country and has overcome the odds to achieve success.  She continues to contribute to her community in Arizona, and has great potential to give back even more.


 

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Maria Gomez

 

MariaGomez

Read Maria's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Maria's Story on the Floor

Watch Senator Durbin share Maria's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Maria came to the United States from Mexico when she was eight years old and settled in Los Angeles.  Although she started with English as a second language in the third grade, she was an honors student by the time she was in sixth grade.  In middle school, Maria discovered art and architecture; she dreamed of becoming an architect.

 

In high school, Maria was active in community service and extracurricular activities, captain of the school spirit squad, president of the garden club, and a member of the California Scholarship Federation.  She graduated tenth in her class with a 3.9 grade point average.  Her hard work paid off – she was accepted by every college she applied to.  Her dream was to attend UC Berkeley, the only state college in California that offers architecture to undergraduate students, but she couldn’t afford it.

 

Instead, she decided to live at home and attend UCLA.  She rode the bus to and from school every day, a two and a half hour commute each day.  While she was a full-time student, she worked to clean houses and baby sat to help pay for her tuition.  She graduated from UCLA with a major in sociology and a minor in public policy.  She was the first member of her family to graduate from college.  Maria was still determined to achiever her dream of becoming an architect, so she enrolled in a Masters of Architecture program at UCLA; she was the only Latino student in the program.

 

While in graduate school, Maria struggled financially.  At the time, she had to eat at the UCLA food bank.  Because she couldn’t afford housing near campus, she spent many nights in a sleeping bag on the floor of the school’s printing room.  Last year, Maria received her master’s degree in architecture and urban design.  In her letter to Senator Durbin, she said:

 

“I grew up believing in the American dream and I worked hard to earn my place in the country that nurtured and educated me. . . .Like the thousands of other undocumented students and graduates across America, I am looking for one thing, and one thing only: the opportunity to give back to my community, my state, and the country that is my home, the United States.”

 


 

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Kelsey Burke

 

Kelsey

Read Kelsey's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Kelsey's Story on the Floor

Watch Senator Durbin share Kelsey's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Kelsey came to the United States from Honduras when she was ten years old.  Her family settled in Lake Worth, Florida, where she started school in the sixth grade.  By the time she was in eighth grade, she was taking advanced placement classes.  Kelsey was accepted into the Criminal Justice Magnet Program at her high school.  She developed a passion for the law and started to dream about becoming an attorney.  She continued to take honors classes and then enrolled in college at Palm Beach State College.  She graduated from high school with a 3.4 GPA, a criminal justice certificate, and 15 college credits.

 

In 2008, Kelsey was granted temporary protected status, which allows immigrants to remain in the United States temporarily because it’s unsafe for them to return to their home country.  With this status, Kelsey is able to work legally, although she is still not eligible to stay here permanently or become a citizen.

 

While working full-time, Kelsey went to Florida Atlantic University, graduating with a major in public communications and a minor in sociology.  She was the first member of her family to graduate from high school and college.  She now works as a paralegal at a law firm in Palm Beach County.  In addition, she is very active in her community.  She serves on the board of the Hispanic Bar Association, volunteers at the neighborhood community center, and coaches youth soccer.  In the fall, she will start studying at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) College of Law to pursue her dream of becoming an attorney.

 

In a letter to Senator Durbin, Kelsey wrote:

 

“I desire to help others pursue their passion, to fight for their dreams, and to make a positive difference . . . Others forgot where they came from and how their ancestors got here; and what coming to America represents. I have been blessed and want to use my knowledge and experience to help other immigrant families.”


 

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Angelica Hernandez

 

Angelica

Read Angelica's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Angelica's Story on the Floor

Watch Senator Durbin share Angelica's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Angelica Hernandez came to the United States when she was nine years old and grew up in Phoenix, Arizona.  At Carl Hayden High School, she served in Junior ROTC and was president of the National Honor Society.  She became a dedicated member of the school’s robotics club, where she found her true love – engineering.  Angelica graduated from high school with a 4.5 GPA and was named the 2007 Outstanding Young Woman of the Year for district 7 in Phoenix.  Two years ago, Angelica graduated from Arizona State University as the outstanding senior in the Mechanical Engineering Department, with a 4.1 GPA.

 

With a shortage of students entering STEM fields in America, we need more bright and talented young people like Angelica to preserve our nation’s status at the forefront of innovation and technology.


 

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Manny Bartsch

 

Manny

Read Manny's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Manny's Story on the Floor

Watch Senator Durbin share Manny's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Manny was born in Germany.  He was abused and neglected by his parents, so his grandmother became his guardian.  After his grandfather passed away, his grandmother married an American soldier.  Sadly, when Manny was 7 years old, his grandmother was tragically killed by a drunk driver.  Manny’s step-grandfather decided to return to America and brought Manny with him.  They settled in a small town in northwestern Ohio.

 

Unfortunately, Manny’s step-grandfather, wanting to protect him, failed to file any papers for Manny to become a U.S. citizen.  Manny grew up in Ohio, where he went to elementary school and high school.  It was only when Manny was preparing to apply for college that he learned he did not have legal status in America.  Wanting to do the right thing, he made an appointment with Immigration Services to clear up things.  However, when he showed up for his appointment, Manny was arrested and detained.

 

Here is what Manny said about the prospect of being deported to Germany, a country he left as a little boy: “I don’t know anybody over there. This is my home. This is where everybody I know lives, and to have to think about leaving, I just wouldn’t be able to imagine it.”  Manny’s friends rallied behind him, asking for his deportation to be suspended.  Thanks to community support, he was ultimately allowed to stay. 

 

Manny went on to college at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio.  Last month, Manny graduated with a major in political science and a minor in history.  He was president of his fraternity and has been active in community service.  For the last four years, he has organized a fundraiser to purchase Christmas presents for children with cancer at the Cleveland Clinic.  This is what Manny said about his future:

 

“I would go through any channel I have to correct this situation. I’m not asking for citizenship [but] I would love to earn it if that possibility would arise. . . . I would love to contribute to this country, give back to it. I just don’t understand why they would educate people in my situation and deport them back and let countries reap the benefits of the education system here.”

 

The chairman of the History Department at Heidelberg University, David Hogan, had this to say about Manny: “We want good people in this country. We want honest, hard-working people, and that’s Manny pure and simple. [He is] in the top two percent [of students] in terms of brilliance, work ethic, personal qualities.”


 

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Al Okere

 

Al

Read Al's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Al's Story on the Floor

Watch Senator Durbin share Al's story

on the Senate floor.

 

A year after Al was born in Nigeria, his father was killed by the Nigerian police after he wrote newspaper columns criticizing the Nigerian government.  When Al was five years old, he and his mother fled Nigeria and came to the United States.  Because of the murder of her husband, Al’s mother applied for asylum, but her application was denied and she was deported in 2005 when Al was fifteen.

 

Today Al is 21 years old.  He lives in Washington State with his mother’s sister, who is a U.S. citizen.  She is Al’s legal guardian and has raised him since his mother was deported.  Al graduated from Rogers High School near Tacoma, Washington.  He is currently attending Central Washington University, where he is an honors student with a 3.5 grade point average.  In addition to being an avid basketball and football player, he is an active volunteer in his community.  For example, he recently organized a fundraising drive for the Hope Children’s Hospital.

 

In a letter to Senator Durbin, Al wrote:

 

“I have been in accelerated academic programs most of my educational life and hope to be a medical doctor someday, to contribute to the well-being of fellow humans. I hope to continue to emulate and walk in the great academic shoes of my late father, who earned a Ph.D. degree from a university in

Paris, France. My family and community support has been enormous and it gives me zeal to work hard in my studies, to be able to lend a hand to others in need, to realize a bright future.”

 

Al had been placed in deportation proceedings.  Under our immigration law, his aunt can’t sponsor him for citizenship, even though she is a U.S. citizen and his legal guardian.  Al grew up in America.  We have already invested in him by educating from kindergarten through college.  He has a great potential to contribute to America.


 

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Sahid Limon

 

Sahid

Read Sahid's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Sahid's Story on the Floor

Watch Senator Durbin share Sahid's story

on the Senate floor.

Sahid was brought to the United States from Bangladesh when he was nine years old.  He grew up in Durham, North Carolina.  His dream was to become a doctor.  He attended Southern High School—a prestigious magnet school for young people interested in health care.  Sahid was a member of the National Honor Society and won his high school’s Diamond in the Rough Scholarship award.  Sahid didn’t learn about his immigration status until his senior year of high school.

 

Sahid went on to graduate from East Carolina University with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology.  During college, Sahid volunteered at underserved rural areas in North Carolina, which made a big impression on him.  In his application to medical school, he wrote, “I was surprised to see that so many people would line up during a cold winter morning, just to know if they were healthy or not.  Seeing their dedication and patience influences me every day to work my hardest in order to meet my personal goal of becoming an exceptional physician.”

 

That was 8 years ago.  Today, Sahid is 31 years old.  He was unable to attend medical school because of his immigration status.  Since graduating from college, he has volunteered with a health clinic in Raleigh that serves low-income patients, tutored elementary school students to help develop their interests in science, but his personal dream of becoming a doctor has not become a reality.

 

In his letter to Senator Durbin, Sahid explained what the DREAM Act means to him:

 

“The DREAM Act means being able to be home. Regardless of where we go . . . we all yearn to come back to our home. To me, North Carolina is that home . . . I watched live on C–SPAN [in 2010] as the bill passed the House, but failed to pass the Senate. To most of the Senators, it’s just another bill that was rejected. However, to someone like me, whose life not only depends on something so crucial, but my future literally hangs in line, it’s absolutely devastating to witness such a rejection. I hope this is the year that politics is set aside, and all of the representatives can work together for a solution.”


 

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Ayded Reyes

 

Ayded

Read Ayded's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Ayded's Story on the Floor

Watch Senator Durbin share Ayded's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Ayded was brought to the United States from Mexico when she was two years old.  She grew up in San Diego, California.  In high school, she was an honors student who played three sports and was an active volunteer in her community.  Among other activities, Ayded volunteered at the Children’s Hospital and Sherman Heights Community Center, where she tutored students and worked with the elderly. She was also a member of the National Honor Society and graduated from high school with a 3.98 grade point average.

 

Ayded was accepted at the University of California at San Diego, but was unable to attend for financial reasons.  She attends Southwestern Community College, where she has flourished as a student athlete.  She maintains a 3.50 GPA, and her dream is to become an obstetrician.   She has also become the top-ranked women’s junior college cross-country runner in the state of California.  Among other awards, she has been given Athlete of the Year at Southwestern College and Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Track and Field Athlete of the Year.  Although Ayded was offered athletic scholarships to more than a dozen top 4-year colleges, she could not accept them because she was subject to deportation.

 

Luckily, Ayded’s deportation has been halted for now after a judge closed her case.  However, without the DREAM Act, her life remains in limbo.  Passing this bill would allow Ayded to fulfill her dreams of becoming an obstetrician.


 

  • Read about Ayded on ESPN here and here.

 

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Dulce Matuz

 

Dulce

Read Dulce's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Dulce's Story on the Floor

Watch Senator Durbin share Dulce's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Dulce Matuz was brought to the United States by her parents from Mexico as a young child and settled in Phoenix, Arizona.  At Carl Hayden High School, she became a dedicated member of the school’s robotics club and discovered her true love—engineering.  She went on to graduate from Arizona State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.  As a senior, Dulce received an internship to work on the NASA space station.

 

After graduation, reality set in.  Because Dulce is undocumented, she couldn’t work as an engineer in America.  In 2008, Dulce cofounded the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, an organization of more than 200 DREAM Act students in a predicament like hers.  She continues to volunteer at the high school she attended.

 

Today, Dulce is 27 years old.  In April 2012, TIME Magazine named her one of the hundred most influential people in the world.  The magazine published a profile of Dulce written by the actress Eva Longoria.  Here is what the profile said:

 

“Dulce represents the finest of her generation, an undocumented Latina confronted with legal barriers to pursuing her engineering dream. She chose to fight for the right to contribute to the country she has called home since she was very young. Dulce takes on powerful opponents with grace and conviction, saying, ‘We are Americans, and Americans don’t give up.’”


 

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Yaniv Steltzer

 

Yaniv

Read Yaniv's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Yaniv's Story on the Floor

Watch Senator Durbin share Yaniv's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Yaniv was brought to the United States from Israel by his parents when he was just 3 years old.  Like every other American child, he believes that this country is his home.  In 2010, he graduated from Richard Stockton

College in New Jersey with a bachelor’s of science degree in hospitality and tourism management. In college, he was chair of the Jewish Student Union/Hillel Club and was an active volunteer with several other student groups.

 

Yaniv’s dream is to open a restaurant.  In a letter to Senator Durbin, he wrote, “I fell in love with cooking in high school when I took a home-economics class and I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I would love to give back to America by opening my own restaurant, creating jobs, contributing to the economy, and becoming a citizen in the country I love.”

 

Under our current immigration laws, Yaniv can’t become a citizen.  Although his father was born in the United States, Yaniv was born in Israel so he is not an American citizen.  Even though his father applied for Yaniv to become a legal permanent resident, the process took so long that Yaniv became ineligible to adjust his status because he turned 21 years old.

 

This is what Yaniv told Senator Durbin about his situation:

 

“America is the only country I know. I grew up here, all my family and friends are here and everything I know is in America. The DREAM Act is important to me and many others like me who are in the same situation. We have the resources to help this country greatly, but don’t have that piece of paper that allows us to do this. I have high hope and optimism that Congress will do the right and humane thing, put all political issues aside and pass the DREAM Act.”

 

Yaniv grew up in this country and has overcome the odds to achieve great success.  He wants to build a business that creates new jobs and contributes back to our economy.  He wants the chance to make America a better place.


 

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Carlos and Rafael Robles

 

Carlos and Rafael

Read Carlos and Rafael's story in the

Congressional Record.

Carlos and Rafael

Watch Senator Durbin share Carlos and Rafael's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Carlos and Rafael were brought to the United States by their parents when they were children. Today, Carlos is 23, Rafael is 22. They grew up in suburban Chicago.  They graduated from Palatine High School, where they were both honor students.

 

In high school, Carlos was the captain of the tennis team and a member of the varsity swim team. He volunteered with Palatine’s physically challenged program, where every day he helped to feed lunch to special needs students. Carlos graduated from Harper Community College and is now attending Loyola

University in Chicago, majoring in education. His dream is to become a teacher.  This is what one of his teachers said about him: “Carlos is the kind of person we want among us because he makes the community better. This is the kind of person you want as a student, the kind of kid you want as a

neighbor and friend to your child, and most germane to his present circumstance, the kind of person you want as an American.”

 

In high school, Rafael was captain of the tennis team and a member of the varsity swim team and soccer team. He graduated from Harper Community College and now attends the University of Illinois in Chicago where he is majoring in architecture.  One of Rafael’s teachers said: “Rafael is the kind of person I have taught about in my Social Studies classes—the American who comes to this country and

commits to his community and makes it better for others. Raffi Robles is a young man who makes us better. During my 28 year career as a high school teacher, coach, and administrator, I would place Raffi in the top 5 percent of all the kids with whom I have ever had contact.”

 

Unfortunately, these two amazing young men were placed in deportation proceedings.  Thankfully, their proceedings have been suspended for the time being.  In a letter to Senator Durbin, the Robles brothers shared their thoughts about the DREAM Act:

 

“We ask you today to see it in your heart to do the right thing, to listen, and to reward the values of hard work and diligence, values that made America the most beautiful and prosperous country in the world and that we’re sure got you, as members of Congress, to where you are today in life. These are values we have come to admire and respect in the American people. We will continue to uphold these values until the last of our days—we hope eventually as citizens of the United States, a country we now see as home.”


 

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Alaa Mukahhal

 

Alaa

Read Alaa's story in the

Congressional Record.

Alaa

Watch Senator Durbin share Alaa's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Alaa is of Palestinian descent, and was brought to the United States when she was 7 years old.  She grew up in the suburbs of Chicago.  She was an honors student in high school and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in architecture.  In a letter to Senator Durbin, Alaa wrote:

 

“Being undocumented and with no pathway to the citizenship means I actually can’t use my architectural degree. It means I can’t get a job and move forward with my life. This year, once again, we wait for Congress to do the right thing and give undocumented young people all across America a chance to better serve our communities and our country. I am an asset to this country, a resource, with a desire to make good use of my degree. I want to be able to work and design affordable housing for low-income communities.”


 

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Maria Luna

 

Maria Luna

Read Maria's story in the

Congressional Record.

Maria Luna

Watch Senator Durbin share Maria's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Although her mother lives in the United States, just before Maria was born, her mother fled the country and gave birth to her on the Mexican side of the border.  Her mother then abandoned her in Mexico when Maria was just 3 days old.  Luckily, her grandmother stepped in and started raising Maria in Los Angeles, but her grandmother passed away when Maria was 10 years old.

 

After her grandmother’s death, Maria went to live with her biological mother who, unfortunately, was abusive both physically and emotionally towards her. While she was in high school, Maria learned that she did not have legal status because she was actually born across the border in Mexico. She asked her mother to file the papers for her so that she could be legal in America. Her mother refused, and she threatened to turn her into the authorities if she caused any trouble at home.

 

Maria persevered. She became a straight-A student. She graduated from high school with a 4.2 GPA. This is what she said in her letter to Senator Durbin: “Even through everything that I was facing at home, I was able to find relief at school. At school, I felt worthy. My dignity was returned. I was valued based on my merit and drive.” 

 

In 2010, Maria graduated from California State University of Sacramento.  She also decided to start to tell her story publicly and speak about why she believes the DREAM Act is so important. Maria wants to go to business school and become an entrepreneur. She has also begun a career in modeling, although she doesn’t have legal status and can’t be paid for her work. In a letter to Senator Durbin Maria wrote:

 

“Through my involvement through the DREAM Act I have learned of many students who like me have excelled despite tough odds. One thing that we all share in common is our hunger to succeed and give back to this country. My dreams and ambitions are all for America. This is where I belong. I know no other home. It is here that I was given an opportunity, it is here that I have become educated. America adopted me and raised me as her own. And because of that, I am forever indebted to her. All I want is to have the ability to give back to my country.”


 

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Jose Librojo

 

Jose

Read Jose's story in the

Congressional Record.

Jose Librojo

Watch Senator Durbin share Jose's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Jose was brought to the United States from the Philippines when he was a child.  Shortly after they arrived here, Jose’s parents filed an application to stay in this country as legal permanent residents. For more than 15 years, their immigration application has been stuck in the courts. In the meantime, Jose grew up in America. He graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in biology. As a member of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity, Jose volunteers, working with the elderly and young Asian Americans, among other things.

 

Jose has been authorized to work while his immigration case is pending. For more than 10 years, he has worked as a registered dental assistant and a dental laboratory x-ray technician. The dentist who employs him was so impressed by his work that he filed papers to sponsor Jose for legal permanent residency in the United States. The employer’s petition was approved, but because of our broken immigration laws, Jose was placed in deportation proceedings.

 

Jose was scheduled to be deported in November 2011, 3 days before Thanksgiving. But the Department of Homeland Security put his deportation on hold, so he will have a chance to apply for legal status and keep working. Jose sent Senator Durbin a letter, and this is what he said:

 

“I have followed the laws of our system, but the logjam in the courts has put me in this untimely predicament. I have lived in the U.S. for 16 years, and I consider this country as my home. I have always felt like an American. I wish to stay, live my dreams, and build my own family here in the United States. I hope that someday the DREAM Act becomes a reality so that I may continue making contributions to the country I call home.


 

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Minhaz Khan

 

Minhaz

Read Minhaz's story in the

Congressional Record.

Minhaz

Watch Senator Durbin share Minhaz's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Minhaz came to the United States from Bangladesh when he was 4 years old.  In 2009, Minhaz graduated from the University of California Riverside with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience.  Minhaz sent Senator Durbin a letter, and here is what he said about his future: “My dream is to make several contributions to science, and become a physician’s assistant as a career, and eventually a teacher as well. I have great aspirations, but I do not dream of big houses or tons of cars. I want normality, stability, and liberty.”

 

Today, Minhaz lives in Palo Alto, CA, with his wife, who is an American citizen. Minhaz’s wife has filed an application for her husband to become an American citizen, but under our broken immigration laws he was placed instead in deportation proceedings.  Under President Obama’s new deportation policy, the Department of Homeland Security put his deportation on hold so that his application for legal status can be considered.

 

In his letter to Senator Durbin, he wrote about what it would mean for the DREAM Act to become law:

 

“Imagine the countless numbers of individuals ready to contribute to our society as law-abiding, successful individuals who live life with a sense of strength and morality. Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘I have always found that mercy bears richer fruit than strict justice,’ and this is more true now than ever. I have a great amount of hope, optimism, and belief in this country and that one day we shall see the DREAM Act enacted into law.”


 

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Joaquin Luna

 

Joaquin

Read Joaquin's story in the

Congressional Record.

Joaquin

Watch Senator Durbin share Joaquin's story

on the Senate floor.

 

On the day after Thanksgiving in 2011, Joaquin took his life.  He was a senior at Juarez-Lincoln High School in Mission, Texas, where he was a straight-A student.  He had a passion for architecture; in fact, he designed the home where his family lives.  He was an accomplished musician, playing guitar in his church choir.

 

Joaquin dreamed of becoming an engineer.  He had been accepted into a number of excellent schools, including Rice University and Texas A & M.  But he was struggling with a problem most American kids do not even imagine.  Although Joaquin was brought here as a six month old baby by his parents and lived his entire life in the United States, he was undocumented.  His immigration status prevented him from obtaining financial aid to attend the universities that accepted him, and he was unable to work lawfully.

 

There are tens of thousands of young people in this country facing similar challenges.

 

If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless, there are people available to help and talk to you.  You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK or (800) 273-8255.


 

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Amanda Uruchurtu

 

Amanda

Read Amanda's story in the

Congressional Record.

Amanda

Watch Senator Durbin share Amanda's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Amanda came to the United States when she was ten years old.  She lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  When she first arrived her, she didn’t speak a word of English.  She sent Senator Durbin a letter about her experience:

 

“I remember how frustrating it was in school because I had no clue what was going on, but I told myself that all the frustration and fear should be blocked and I should concentrate on learning English. . . . Some made fun of the way I talked but that helped because it made me work even harder and try to assimilate even more. Little by little I worked with my accent to the point that it was hardly noticeable.”

 

When she started high school, Amanda decided she knew what she wanted to do with her life.  She wanted to serve in the U.S. military.  She was ranked fifth in her high school class, a member of the National Honor Society, and even received the Daughters of the American Revolution award at her high school.  Amanda overcame great obstacles and wants to be a part of America’s future.

 

Deporting a bright, determined young woman who wants to serve her country by joining the military makes no sense.  We should give Amanda the chance to make our Armed Forces even stronger and pursue her American dream.


 

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Karla Contreras

 

Karla

Read Karla's story in the

Congressional Record.

Karla

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on the Senate floor.

 

Karla came to the United States at the age of three.  Today she is seventeen years old and lives in Pelham, Alabama.  She is a junior in high school.  She is a leader in the Alabama Dreamers for the Future, an organization of undocumented students.

 

Karla’s dream is to become an attorney.  Her family is considering moving to Washington State because of the controversial Alabama immigration law.  In her letter to Senator Durbin, Karla wrote, “I have never really lived anywhere besides Alabama. I have been here practically all my life. Alabama is my home.”  She also shared her thoughts with the Senator on the Alabama immigration law:

 

“All that people want is a better future, a job to maintain them in an average way, a place they can call home with no fear of being kidnapped by a drug dealer, a place where they are not afraid to walk out to their yard. It is so hard for me to see how these things could be a crime in anyone’s eye. This law is putting children in fear for their parents. Now tell me who on earth would want to purposely frighten a child.”


 

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Fanny Martinez

 

Fannie

Read Fanny's story in the

Congressional Record.

Fanny

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on the Senate floor.

 

Fanny Martinez was brought to the United States from Mexico nine years ago, when she was 13 years old. She lives in Addison, Illinois.

 

Fanny is an academic all-star. She was a straight A student in high school. Last year, she graduated summa cum laude with a major in Sociology from Dominican University in River Forest Illinois. Fanny is currently working on a master’s degree at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.

 

Fanny is married to David Martinez, who has served in the U.S. Army Reserves for the last 8 years. David is currently deployed to Afghanistan, putting his life on the line for our country. While David is defending our country, his wife could be deported.

 

In a letter to Senator Durbin, Fanny explained her situation:

 

“My husband is constantly worried about my status in the country. He knows that I am always at risk of being placed in deportation proceedings and he is afraid of not having his wife with him once he returns from Afghanistan. The passage of the DERAM Act will give me the confidence to live without fear and frustration. It will allow me and my husband to plan our future without having to deal with the possibility of my deportation and my lack of opportunities. I care about my community and I know that I can help improve society if I am allowed to remain in the U.S. and am given my lawful permanent residence.”

 

David Martinez is willing to give his life for our country. We should give him – and his wife Fanny – a chance to pursue their dreams.


 

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Mandeep Chahal

 

Mandeep

Read Mandeep's story in the

Congressional Record.

Mandeep

Watch Senator Durbin share Mandeep's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Mandeep Chahal came to the United States from India when she was 6 years old.  Today, Mandeep is 21 years old.  She is an academic all-star.  She is an honors pre-med student at the University of California, Davis, where she is a Neurology, Physiology, and Behavior major.

 

Mandeep has also been dedicated to public service.  In high school, she helped to found an organization known as One Dollar for Life, for poverty relief around the world.  She was voted the member of her class “most likely to save the world.”  At her college, Mandeep is the co-president of STAND, an anti-genocide group.

 

Mandeep has so much to offer America.  Unfortunately, she was placed in deportation proceedings last year.  She and her friends responded the way many young people do today—they went to Facebook and asked for help.  The response was amazing; 20,000 people sent faxes to the Department of Homeland Security to save this young woman from deportation.  On the day she was scheduled to be deported, she was granted a one-year stay.

 

In a letter to Senator Durbin, Mandeep explained why she would like a chance to stay in the United States:

 

“I have spent 14 years in the United States, and consider it my only home. My family, friends, and future are in the United States, which is where I belong. My dream is to become a pediatrician so I can treat the most helpless and innocent among us. I hope to serve families in low income communities who are otherwise unable to afford medical care. I wish to remain in the United States so that I can continue to make a positive difference and give back to the community that has given me so much.”

 

There is so much discussion in America today about the need for more young people with the skills for the 21st  century economy. Mandeep Chahal is one of these young people. If we give her a chance, she will help make America’s future a brighter one.


 

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Dominique and Tapiwa Nkata

 

Dominique and Tapiwa

Read Dominique and Tapiwa's story in the

Congressional Record.

Dominique and Tapiwa

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on the Senate floor.

 

Tapiwa and Dominique Nkata’s parents brought them to the United States from Malawi when Tapiwa was 4 years old and Dominique was only eleven months old.   The Nkatas came here legally and filed papers to stay here permanently, but their case was stuck in immigration court.  By the time Tapiwa and Dominique’s parents were finally granted legal permanent residency in the United States, the sisters were adults and unable to obtain legal status through their parents.  If the court had moved more quickly and the decision had been made while they were still children, there would be no questions about their immigration status.

 

Last year, these two young women were placed in deportation proceedings.  In a letter Dominique wrote to Senator Durbin, she spoke of her thoughts on being deported to Malawi, “The looming fear of having everything I know, including part of my family, here in the United States while I am removed to the other side of the world, is crippling.”  And Tapiwa wrote, “I can’t imagine my life in Africa.  I am an American, I know this culture and I speak this language.  I pledge allegiance to this flag.”

 

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security decided to give a one year stay of deportation to Tapiwa and Dominique.  It would be wrong to send these young women, who grew up in America and have so much to contribute, back to Malawi, a country they don’t even remember.

 

Tapiwa is now 26 years old.  In 2007, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in finance.  For the past few years, she has been working at an accounting firm and dreams of being a certified public accountant.

 

Dominique is now 22 years old.  Last year, she graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a double degree in chemistry and pre-medicine.  She now works at the University Hospital and the Jewish Hospital in the research department as a clinical studies assistant.  Dominique is studying for the MCAT and plans to apply to medical school when her immigration status is resolved.  She dreams of being a doctor so she can give back to a county that has given so much to her.


 

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Jose Magana

 

Jose Magana

Read Jose's story in the

Congressional Record.

Jose Magana

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on the Senate floor.

 

Jose Magana came to the United States from Mexico when he was two years old.  He grew up in Arizona and graduated as the valedictorian of his high school class.  He enrolled in Arizona State University, becoming the first member of his family to attend college.  When Arizona passed a law prohibiting public universities from giving financial aid or in-state tuition rates to undocumented students, hundreds were forced to drop out of school.  But Jose persevered.

 

Jose found his calling on the speech and debate team, where he ranked fifth in the nation.  In 2008, Jose graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University with a major in business management.  He could not work because of his legal status, so he went to law school.  This year, Jose graduated from Baylor University Law School in Waco, Texas.  Despite his potential to give to this country, Jose will not be able to work as a lawyer because of his undocumented status.  


 

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Diana Banda

 

Diana

Read Diana's story in the

Congressional Record.

Diana

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on the Senate floor.

 

Diana came to the United States when she was three years old.  She grew up in Oregon and dreamed of being a first responder.  She volunteered with the American Red Cross at her community emergency response team.  During her senior year of high school, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  Thankfully, after a long struggle, Diana is cancer free.  After her recovery, she is more determined than ever to pursue her dream.  She is enrolled in a firefighting and paramedic program at the community college in Salem, Oregon.

 

In a letter to Senator Durbin, she wrote:

 

“Although I love Mexico because it is the place I was born, I could not pack my things and move back to a place I know nothing about, a place I know through old baby pictures and family stories…America is my home.  This is the place I love where everyone and everything I know is.  I know nothing outside the United States.  Whatever punishment I must pay, I am willing to do.  All I ask for is a chance.  Better yet, I beg for a chance to prove that I am not a criminal, that I have much to offer this beautiful place.”

 

It does not make sense to deport someone who came here when she was a toddler, and wants to contribute to the medical community.


 

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Monji Dolon

 

Monji

Read Monji's story in the

Congressional Record.

Monji

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on the Senate floor.

 

Monji Dolon’s parents brought him to the United States from Bangladesh when he was five years old.  As he grew up in his new home, Monji immersed himself in the study of computers and technology.  In a letter he wrote to Senator Durbin, he said,

 

“For as long as I can remember, I have had an intense passion for technology.  In middle school, that passion led to spending many nights constructing remote-controlled model and Van de Graaff generators.  In high school, I fell in love with computers and the Internet, spending my senior year creating an online newspaper for my school.”

 

Monji only learned he was undocumented when he was filling out college applications and asked his parents what he should put down for immigration status.  Yet, Monji persevered and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He has been courted by the technology industry and even been offered a job as a lead engineer for a start-up company in Silicon Valley.  However, his prospects were limited because of his immigration status.

 

The DREAM Act would give him a chance to pursue his dreams and contribute his talent to the only country he has ever called home.  In his letter, he wrote,

 

“I’ve turned down several great job offers because of my status.  The DREAM Act would let me take my passion for technology to the next level by allowing me to move to Silicon Valley and pursue my dream as an Internet entrepreneur.”

 

There is a so much discussion about America’s economic future in the 21st century.  Every year, we bring in talented people from overseas on H-1B visas, while at the same time our laws banish talented people like Dreamers back to the countries they have never known.  We could use people with Monji’s talents in America.


 

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Juan Rios

 

Juan Rios

Read Juan's story in the

Congressional Record.

Juan Rios

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on the Senate floor.

 

Juan Rios was brought to the United States when he was 10 years old.  He grew up in the State of Arizona.  In high school, Juan discovered his calling: military service.  He became a leader in the Air Force Junior ROTC.  He became group commander and arm drill team captain and rose to the rank of cadet lieutenant colonel.  Juan dreamed of one day attending the Air Force Academy, but was unable to do so because he is undocumented.

 

Instead, Juan enrolled in Arizona State University where he graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering.  Since graduating, he has been waiting for his chance to either serve in our military or use his degree.  He can’t enlist because he is undocumented, and until recently he couldn’t work in his field—the aeronautics industry—because of the same legal obstacle.

 

In a letter to Senator Durbin, he said:

 

“The United States of America is the country I want to live my life in, where I want to flourish as a productive citizen, where I want to grow old among my lifelong friends, where I want to one day fall in love and raise a family.”


 

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Herta Llusho

 

Herta

Read Herta's story in the

Congressional Record.

Herta

Watch Senator Durbin share Herta's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Herta Llusho was brought to the United States from Albania when she was 11. She and her mother settled in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

 

Herta and her mother came to the United States legally. Shortly after arriving, Herta’s mother filed an application to stay in the United States.

 

Herta quickly learned English and became an academic star. She graduated from Grosse Pointe South High School with a 4.05 grade point average. In high school, she was a member of the varsity track team, won an Advanced Placement Scholar Award, and was a member of the National Honor Society.

 

Herta is currently a senior at the University of Detroit Mercy, where she is an honors student. Herta is studying to be an electrical engineer. She has a grade point average of 3.98 and has completed two internships at engineering companies.

 

Herta is also very involved in her community, volunteering at homeless shelters, tutoring programs, and her church. One of Herta’s friends said:

 

“I am humbled by Herta’s willingness and desire to serve. I have had the privilege of going to the same church at which she faithfully serves. She spends hours tutoring kids and volunteering with the junior high Sunday school class. It’s a joy to watch so many children run up to her at church because of the love they receive when they are with her.”

 

In 2009, after nine years of legal proceedings, the government placed Herta and her mother in deportation proceedings. Herta said:

 

“I was shocked. My friends are here, my education is here, my community is here. All of a sudden, I was asked to leave behind everything I know and go back to a country I barely know. When I lived there, I was little, so I don’t remember it much and I barely speak Albanian anymore.”

 

Herta’s community rose to her defense. Thousands of people signed an online petition to stop her deportation. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security granted Herta a one year stay of deportation.

 

Herta came to Capitol Hill to speak at a briefing on the DREAM Act. She said:

 

“I’m a typical story. There’s thousands of stories out there just like mine. Please support the DREAM Act so students like me don’t have to leave. We are worth it. This is the country we have come to love.”

Every year we issue thousands of H–1B visas to bring foreign workers to the United States in the STEM fields.  Herta is a straight-A student in electrical engineering, a STEM field. She doesn’t need an H–1B visa. She is a homegrown American talent.


 

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Julieta Garibay

 

Julieta

Read Julieta's story in the

Congressional Record.

Julieta

Watch Senator Durbin share Julieta's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Julieta Garibay was brought to the United States in 1992, when she was 11. Julieta graduated from the University of Texas with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She was on the Dean’s list and the President’s Honor Roll and volunteered more than 500 hours at hospitals in Dallas and Austin. Julieta went on to earn a master’s degree at the University of Texas in public health nursing. She is a member of Sigma Theta Tau, the International Honor Society of Nursing.

 

Julieta has been a Registered Nurse since 2004, but she is undocumented, so she cannot work legally in America.

  

In a letter to Senator Durbin, Julieta said:

 

“I desperately need the DREAM Act to pass so I can practice my beloved profession – Nursing. I have been dreaming of being a nurse for the past 7 years since I earned my nursing license. Once the DREAM Act passes, I will join the military in hopes of making up the lost time and serve the country I call home as a nurse.”

 

The United States faces a severe shortage of nurses.  The DREAM Act would give an American-trained nurse like Julieta a chance to serve the country she loves. 


 

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Juan Gomez

 

Juan Gomez

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Congressional Record.

Juan Gomez

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on the Senate floor.

 

Juan Gomez came to the United States from Colombia in 1990, when he was 2.

 

Juan is an academic star. At Killian Senior High School in Miami, he earned close to two years of college credit with high scores on 13 Advanced Placement exams. He scored a 1410 out of 1600 on the SAT, and he finished in the top 20 of his class. His economics teacher nicknamed him “President Gomez” and said he is “one of the best students ever to graduate from Killian.”

 

In 2007, during Juan’s senior year in high school, he was placed in deportation proceedings. What happened next was American democracy at work. Scott Elfenbein was the student body president at Juan’s high school. He was also Juan’s best friend. Scott started a Facebook page devoted to stopping Juan’s deportation. On the Facebook page, he wrote, “We need your help in saving Juan from being sent to Colombia – a country he doesn’t even remember. For those of you who know Juan, he is the smartest and most dedicated kid you ever met. He deserves more than to just be deported. Many of us owe him. I know he helped everyone one way or another in school. It’s the least we can do for him.”

 

Within one week, over 2000 people joined Juan’s Facebook page. Then, Juan’s friends came to Capitol Hill to lobby on his behalf. They persuaded Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and then Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) to introduce a bill to stop Juan’s deportation. Rep. Diaz Balart is a Republican and he is a lead cosponsor of the DREAM Act in the House of Representatives. Former Senator Chris Dodd is a Democrat. This isn’t a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats should agree that it is wrong to punish children for the choices their parents make.

 

After his deportation was stayed, Juan was admitted to Georgetown University on a full scholarship. Juan graduated from Georgetown works at a top financial services firm in New York City.

 

The DREAM Act would give Juan, and thousands like him, a chance to contribute their skills to the country they love.

 

 

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Ola Kaso

 

Ola

Read Ola's story in the

Congressional Record.

Ola

Watch Senator Durbin share Ola's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Ola Kaso came to the United States from Albania in 1998, when she was 5.

 

Ola graduated from high school in Warren, Michigan. She was a valedictorian of her class. She had taken every Advanced Placement class offered by her school and had a 4.4 grade point average. Ola was on the varsity cross country and tennis teams. She was treasurer of the student council and treasurer of the National Honor Society at her school. She tutored students who are learning English.

 

Ola was accepted into the honors program at the University of Michigan, where she finished her first year as a pre-med student. In a letter to Senator Durbin, Ola wrote, “I aspire to ultimately become a surgical oncologist, but more importantly, I intend to work for patients that cannot afford the astronomical fees accompanying life saving surgeries, patients that are denied the medical treatment they deserve. My goal is not to increase my bank account; my goal is to decrease preventable deaths. I wish to remain in this country to make a difference.”

 

The Department of Homeland Security granted a stay of deportation to Ola, to give her a chance to continue her education. That was the right thing to do. It makes no sense to send someone like Ola, who has so much to contribute, to a country she barely remembers.


 

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Elier Lara

 

Elier Lara

Read Elier's story in the

Congressional Record.

Elier Lara

Watch Senator Durbin share Elier's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Elier Lara’s parents brought him to the United States in 1994, when he was four.

 

Elier is a computer whiz. In high school, he won awards for outstanding achievement in science and information technology. He graduated in the top 5 percent of his high school class and was named Tech Prep Student of the Year in Cincinnati. He even started a computer repair business.

 

Now, Elier is an honors student at the University of Cincinnati. He is majoring in Information Technology. One of his professors said, “I have worked with thousands of students over the past 30 years, and Elier Lara is that student who comes along every 10 years or so who makes your heart sing.”

 

In a letter to Senator Durbin, Elier wrote, “Technology and computers is where I want to spend the rest of my life. I'm sure I’ll find my place on the forefront of the technological frontier, implementing and discovering the new technologies of the future. I am dreaming big and will continue to do so.”

 

America would benefit from someone with Elier’s talents. Immigrants founded leading American technology companies like Google, Yahoo, Intel, and E-Bay. That could be Elier’s and America’s future.


 

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Nelson and Jhon Magdaleno

 

JhonNelson

Read Jhon and Nelson's story in the

Congressional Record.

Nelson and Jhon

Watch Senator Durbin share Jhon and Nelson's

story on the Senate floor.

 

Nelson and Jhon Magdaleno came to the United States from Venezuela when Nelson was 11 and Jhon was 9.

 

They were both honors students at Lakeside High School in Atlanta, Georgia. Jhon served with distinction in the Air Force Junior Officer Reserve Corps. He was the 4th highest ranking officer in a 175 officer cadet unit and Commander of the Air Honor Society in his unit.

 

They are now honors students at Georgia Tech. Nelson, who is now 22, is a senior. He is a computer engineering major. Jhon, who is now 19, is a sophomore. He is a pre-med chemical and biomolecular engineering major.

 

America needs more talented young engineers like Nelson and Jhon.  Unfortunately, they have been placed in deportation proceedings and could be sent back to Venezuela, a country where they have not lived since they were children.

 

In a letter to Senator Durbin, John David Bunting, Nelson and Jhon’s uncle, said:

 

“They will be able to give back so much to our country if allowed to stay. I am overwhelmed by my pride in them, and how they have managed to persevere and even flourish under their circumstances. … I also have two young sons and I teach them about the incredible history of the United States, and the way that our country can address wrongs committed in its name, and come out of the process even stronger. Please help us.”


 

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Pedro Pedroza

 

Pedro

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Congressional Record.

Pedro

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on the Senate floor.

 

Pedro Pedroza was brought to Chicago from Mexico when he was 5.

 

Pedro graduated from St. Agnes Catholic School in Little Village and was an honors student at St. Ignatius College Prep.

 

He recently graduated from Cornell University, a prestigious college in Ithaca, New York. Pedro wants to be a teacher.

 

America needs more teachers with the talent of Pedro Pedroza.

 

Unfortunately, Pedro is in deportation proceedings. He was riding a bus from Chicago back to school in Ithaca New York when immigration agents arrested him. It makes no sense to send someone like Pedro, who has so much to contribute, to a country he barely remembers.

 

In a letter to Senator Durbin, Pedro wrote:

 

“Mexico is not only unfamiliar to me, but leaving the U.S. means leaving everything and everyone I know. … I only hope I can earn a future in the U.S. for as long as I am here. Even if I am left no choice but to leave for Mexico, I would still strive to adjust my status and return to the place I consider home – the United States of America.”


 

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Steve Li

 

Steve

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Congressional Record.

Steve

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on the Senate floor.

 

Steve Li’s parents brought him to the United States when he was 11. Steve is a student at the City College of San Francisco, where he is majoring in nursing and is a leader in student government.

 

In a letter to Senator Durbin, Steve wrote:

 

“My dream is to become a registered nurse at San Francisco General Hospital and to be a public health advocate. I want to be able to give back to my community by raising awareness about preventive care and other healthcare issues. I’m well on my way to achieving my dream. By passing the DREAM Act, I will be able to achieve these goals and contribute to the growing health care industry.”

 

America needs more nurses with the talent of Steve Li.


 

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Tolu Olubumni

 

Tolu

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Congressional Record.

Tolu

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on the Senate floor.

 

Tolu Olbunmi was born in Nigeria and brought to the United States as a child.  She graduated from high school with honors and was awarded a full scholarship to one of the nation’s top universities.  In college she was a leader: a peer counselor, a resident assistant, a volunteer in an abused women’s shelter, and a research analyst in the department of engineering.  Tolu received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 2002, but she has never been able to work one day as a chemical engineer in America.


 

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David Cho

 

David

Read David's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Maria's Story on the Floor

Watch Senator Durbin share David's story

on the Senate floor.

 

David Cho’s parents brought him to the United States from South Korea when he was 9.

 

Since then, David has been a model American. He had a 3.9 GPA in high school. David graduated from UCLA, where he majored in International Finance and Korean. David was also the leader of the UCLA marching band.  He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in public policy from UCLA.


 

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Gaby Pacheco

 

Gaby

Read Gaby's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Maria's Story on the Floor

Watch Senator Durbin share Gaby's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Gaby Pacheco’s parents brought her to this country from Ecuador when she was 7.

 

Gaby was the highest ranked Junior R.O.T.C. student in her high school, and she received the highest score on the military’s aptitude test. The Air Force tried to recruit Gaby but she was unable to enlist because she did not have legal status.

 

Since then, Gaby has earned two associates degrees in education and is currently working on her BA in special education. Gaby has also served as the president of her student government and the president of Florida’s Junior Community College Student Government Association. Gaby’s dream is to teach autistic children.

 

Gaby is one of four students who walked all the way from Miami, Florida, to Washington, D.C. – 1,500 miles – in order to build support for the DREAM Act. Along the way, these four students were joined by hundreds of supporters. They called their trip the Trail of Dreams.


 

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Cesar Vargas

 

Cesar

Read Cesar's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Maria's Story on the Floor

Watch Senator Durbin share Cesar's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Cesar Vargas was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by his parents when he was 5. He recently graduated from the City University of New York School of Law, where he founded the Prosecutor Law Students Association. While in law school, Cesar interned at the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office. Cesar's dream is to serve as a military lawyer in the Judge Advocate General's Corp, and, following his military service, to become a prosecutor.

 

 

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Eric Balderas

 

Eric

Read Eric's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Maria's Story on the Floor

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on the Senate floor.

 

Eric Balderas is currently a student at Harvard University, where he is majoring in molecular and cellular biology. Eric's mother brought him to the United States from Mexico in 1994 when he was 4. Eric was valedictorian and student council president at his high school.  His goal in life is to become a cancer researcher.

 

 

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Mayra Garcia

 

Mayra

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Congressional Record.

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Mayra Garcia was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by her parents in 1994, when she was 2. She was a member of the National Honor Society and she graduated from high school in the Spring of 2010 with a 3.98 GPA. She is the President of the Cottonwood Youth Advisory Commission in her hometown of Cottonwood Arizona. Mayra was awarded a scholarship to attend a prestigious university in California. In an essay about the DREAM Act, Mayra wrote:

 

"From the time I was intellectually capable of understanding its significance, my dream was to be the first college graduate in my immediate and extended family. ... College means more to me than just a four-year degree. It means the breaking of a family cycle. It means progression and fulfillment of an obligation."

 

"According to my mother, I cried every day in preschool because of the language barrier. By kindergarten, though, I was fluent in English. ... English became my way of understanding the world and myself. I used it to prove myself to a society that expected nothing more from me than a pregnant belly or a criminal record."


 

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Benita Veliz

 

Benita

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Congressional Record.

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Benita Veliz was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by her parents in 1993, when she was 8 years old. Benita graduated as the valedictorian of her high school class at the age of 16. She received a full scholarship to St. Mary's University, where she graduated from the Honors program with a double major in biology and sociology. Benita's honors thesis was on the DREAM Act. She dreams of becoming an attorney. In a letter to Senator Durbin, Benita wrote:

 

"I can't wait to be able to give back to the community that has given me so much. I was recently asked to sign the national anthems for both the U.S. and Mexico at a Cinco de Mayo community assembly. Without missing a beat, I quickly belted out the Star Spangled Banner. To my embarrassment, I then realized that I had no idea how to sing the Mexican national anthem. I am American. My dream is American. It's time to make our dreams a reality. It's time to pass the DREAM Act."
 

 

 

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Minchul Suk

 

Minchul

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Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Minchul's Story on the Floor

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on the Senate floor.

 

Minchul Suk was brought to the U.S. from South Korea by his parents in 1991, when he was 9. Minchul graduated from high school with a 4.2 GPA. He graduated from UCLA with a degree in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. With the support of the Korean-American community, Minchul was able to graduate from dental school. He has passed the national boards and licensure exam but cannot obtain a license and fulfill his dream of becoming a dentist because he is undocumented. In a letter to Senator Durbin, Minchul wrote:

 

"After spending the majority of my life here, with all my friends and family here, and with my college acceptance at UCLA, I could not simply pack my things and go to a country I barely remember. I am willing to accept whatever punishment is deemed fitting for that crime; let me just stay and pay for it. People say that everyone deserves a second chance. I am just asking for that one. I am begging for a chance to prove to everyone that I am not a waste of a human being, that I am not a criminal set on leeching off taxpayers' money. Please give me the chance to serve my community as a dentist, to be a giver rather than a receiver, to be able to become someone who would be able to shine light and help those around me like people have done for me when I was down in my darkest hours."
 

 

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Trail of Dreams

 

Trail of Dreams

Read about the Trail of Dreams in

the Congressional Record.

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Watch Senator Durbin talk about the

Trail of Dreams on the Senate floor.

 

Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco, Juan Rodriguez, and Carlos Roa, four DREAM Act students also known as the Trail of Dreams, walked 1.500 miles from Miami to Washington DC to raise awareness about the DREAM Act.  Along the way, they were joined by hundreds of supporters, and fellow DREAM Act students.

 

 

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Marie Gonzalez

 

Marie

Read Marie's story in the

Congressional Record.

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Marie Gonzalez was brought to the U.S. from Costa Rica by her parents when she was 5. In 2008, she graduated from Westminster College in Missouri with a double major in political science and international business. Marie, one of the first Dreamers to speak out about her situation, testified in the House Judiciary Committee on May 18, 2007:

 

"No matter what, I will always consider the United States of America my home. I love this country. Only in America would a person like me have the opportunity to tell my story to people like you. Many may argue that because I have a Costa Rican birth certificate I am Costa Rican and should be sent back to that country. If I am sent back there, sure I'd be with my Mom and Dad, but I'd be torn away from loved ones that are my family here, and from everything I have known since I was a child."
 

 

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Tam Tran

 

Tam

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Congressional Record.

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on the Senate floor.

 

Tam Tran was born in Germany and was brought to the United States by her parents when she was six years old. Tam's parents are refugees who fled Vietnam to Germany as boat people at the end of the Vietnamese war. They could not return to Vietnam because they were persecuted by the Communist government in Vietnam and the German government refuses to accept them. Tam graduated from UCLA with honors with a degree in American Literature and Culture. She was studying for a Ph.D. at Brown University when she was tragically killed in a car accident. On May 18, 2007, Tam testified in the House Judiciary Committee:

 

I was born in Germany, my parents are Vietnamese, but I have been American raised and educated for the past 18 years. ... Without the DREAM Act, I have no prospect of overcoming my state of immigration limbo; I'll forever be a perpetual foreigner in a country where I've always considered myself an American.
 

 

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Oscar Vasquez

 

Oscar

Read Oscar's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Oscar's Story on the Floor

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on the Senate floor.

 

Oscar Vazquez was brought to Phoenix, Arizona, by his parents when he was a child.

 

He spent his high school years in Junior R.O.T.C. He dreamed of enlisting in the military. However, at the end of his junior year, a recruiting officer told Oscar that he was ineligible for military service because he was undocumented.

 

Oscar found another outlet for his talent. He entered a college-level robot competition sponsored by NASA. Oscar and three other DREAM Act students worked for months in a storage room in their high school. They were competing against students from MIT and other top universities, but Oscar’s team won first place.

 

In 2009, Oscar graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He was one of the top three students in his class.

 

Following his graduation, Oscar took a brave step. He voluntarily returned to Mexico, a country where he hadn’t lived since he was a child. Oscar said, “I decided to take a gamble and do the right thing.”

 

Last year, the Obama Administration granted Oscar a waiver to reenter the United States. Without this waiver, Oscar would have been barred from returning to the United States for at least ten years. He would have been separated from his wife Karla and their young daughter Samantha, who are both American citizens.

 

When Oscar returned to the United States last year, he did two things. First, he applied for citizenship. Then, he enlisted in the Army.  After completing basic training, Oscar became an American citizen last summer.

 

Oscar is a member of the Army’s Airborne unit.  He is currently on a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan with the 4th Brigade Combat Team.


 

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Tereza Lee

 

Tereza Lee

Read Tereza's story in the

Congressional Record.

Durbin Shares Tereza's Story on the Floor

Watch Senator Durbin share Tereza's story

on the Senate floor.

 

Tereza Lee was brought to the United States when she was just 2 years old.  She and her family settled in Chicago, Illinois.  After joining the Merit Music Program, it became clear that Tereza was a child prodigy at the piano.  She played so well that she was offered many scholarships, including to the Manhattan Conservatory of Music.  When she went to fill out an application, she came across the citizenship or nationality question.  That is when Tereza learned that she was undocumented.  After coming to the United States on a visitor’s visa, her parents never filed any paperwork to adjust her status.

 

The law said Tereza, who had lived in the United States for 16 years, would have to leave for 10 years and only after that could she apply to come back to this country.  She did not know where she would go.  Her family came to Chicago from Brazil, though they were originally from Korea.  America is  the only country Tereza ever knew.  Tereza’s situation inspired Senator Durbin to introduce the DREAM Act for the first time, over eleven years ago.

 

Today, Tereza is pursuing her Doctorate in Musical Arts at the Manhattan School of Music.  She has performed at the Chicago Symphony, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall.


 

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