Dreamers' Stories

Yuri Hernandez

When Yuri Hernandez was only three years old, her family brought her to the United States from Mexico. Yuri grew up in the town of Coos Bay in Oregon. In high school, she was an honor-roll student who was very active in her community. Yuri went on to attend the University of Portland, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. 

Yuri is now a graduate student at the University of Michigan School of Social Work.  She is planning to graduate with a Masters in Social Work in the Fall of 2017.  In her spare time, she tutors and mentors high school students. Yuri dreams of becoming a social worker and giving back to her community.

Rey Pineda

Rey Pineda was brought to America when he was two years old. The first in his family to attend college and a devout Catholic, Rey is now a priest at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta Georgia. If DACA is eliminated, Father Rey will lose his legal status and could be deported back to Mexico–a tragedy for Father Rey and his congregation. After the most divisive election in recent memory, Father Rey and other DACA recipients have a key role to play in healing the differences that divide us. We must save DACA and protect the DREAMers who have contributed their talents to our great country.

Oscar Cornejo, Jr.

Oscar Cornejo, Jr., was brought to Park City, Illinois, when he was five years old. He was an excellent student throughout his childhood and now attends Dartmouth University. If DACA is eliminated, Oscar will lose his legal status and could be deported back to Mexico, a country he hasn’t lived in since he was five yrs old
Will America be stronger if we deport Oscar, or if he stays here and achieves his dream of becoming an educator? The answer is clear: DACA works.

Lisette Diaz

Lisette Diaz was just six years old when her family brought her to the U.S. from Chile. Growing up in Long Island, Lisette excelled in school and was involved in her community. She went on to attend Harvard, where she received numerous awards and participated in a variety of extracurricular activities. Just last month, Lisette graduated Harvard with honors.

Lisette and other Dreamers have so much to contribute to our country. But Donald Trump and other Republicans have made their agenda clear – they want to shut down DACA and DAPA and deport hundreds of thousands of Dreamers and parents of American children. If they have their way, Lisette will be deported back to Chile, a country where she hasn’t lived since she was 6 years old. Will America be a stronger country if we deport Lisette or if she stays here and uses her talents? The answer is clear: DACA works.

Cynthia Sanchez

When Cynthia was just seven years old, her family came to the United States from Mexico. Cynthia grew up in Denver, Colorado and was an excellent student. She went on to attend the University of Denver, where she received numerous awards and scholarships and was an active volunteer. In 2010, Cynthia graduated from college with a degree in cognitive neuroscience, which is a double major in psychology and biology, as well as a minor in chemistry.

In 2013, she applied for DACA and was approved that summer. By September, Cynthia was working at Northwestern University in Chicago doing clinical research in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Cardiology. Her research focuses on improving treatment options for patients who suffer from heart failure.

Cynthia sent me a letter. Here is what she said: "DACA has meant a new realm of opportunities for me, it has opened new doors for me and it has allowed me to once again see my dream as a reality. I truly believe that if those opposed to DACA or the DREAM act had a chance to sit and chat with undocumented students, their opinions might change.They would see capable, smart, hardworking individuals who are Americans in every sense of the word, love this country and want to contribute to its prosperity. After all, this is our home."

Cynthia and other Dreamers have so much to contribute to our country I’m hopeful that the Supreme Court will uphold the President’s immigration actions. And then I hope that Republicans in Congress will work with us to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation to fix our broken immigration system once and for all.

Vasthy Lamadrid

Vasthy’s family came to the United States from Mexico when she was only 5 years old. Despite her family’s modest means, Vasthy felt safe and excelled in school. Math was her best subject and she had nearly perfect scores on standardized tests. In middle school, Vasthy discovered her love of engineering. She excelled academically and was active in her community.

Vasthy has gone on to attend Arizona State University. Because of her immigration status, she does not qualify for any government assistance and has to pay out-of-state tuition despite having lived in Arizona for most of her life. To help pay for her education, Vasthy decided to “crowdfund” her college education. Vasthy shared her story online and this brought in enough contributions to pay for her tuition.

Vasthy is currently in her second year of college. In her very first semester, she made the Dean’s List with a 3.79 GPA in the Ira Fulton School of Engineering. Thanks to DACA, Vasthy is able to work to support herself and volunteer in her community. As a result of her volunteer work, Vasthy has decided that she wants to become a science teacher. Instead of working to deport America’s future teachers like Vasthy, I hope my Republican colleagues will work to pass fair, comprehensive immigration reform.

Fernando Meza Gutierrez

Fernando’s family came to the U.S. when he was nine years old. In high school, Fernando was an AP Scholar and received the International Baccalaureate Diploma and the Achievement Award in Foreign Language for French. Fernando continued to excel academically at Santa Clara University, where he graduated cum laude with a double major in Biology and French. Now a third year doctoral student at UC San Francisco (UCSF), Fernando also works at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he is working hard to provide new insights into many diseases and disorders. Instead of trying to deport young men and women like Fernando, I hope the other party will support meaningful immigration reform that is fair and comprehensive.

Maricela Aguilar

When she was just three years old, Maricela’s mother brought her to Milwaukee in search of a better life. Maricela excelled as a student, and during high school was on the honor roll, was a member of the National Honor Society, and volunteered at a local homeless shelter. When it came time to apply for college, she was offered a full academic scholarship to Marquette University in Milwaukee. At Marquette, Maricela was on the Dean’s List and was a double major in political science and English literature. She also worked part-time as a waitress to support herself and her family. I met Maricela in 2011, when she came to Washington to raise concerns about Dreamers like herself who were being deported from the only country they had even known. In 2012, Maricela graduated with honors, in the top 10% of her graduating class. Later that year, President Obama announced the creation of DACA. Currently in graduate school in Boston, Maricela plans to return to Milwaukee, where she wants to become a public school teacher so she can use her education to help the next generation of young people in the city where she grew up. Thanks to DACA, Maricela will have that chance.

Denisse Rojas

In 1990, when Denisse was just an infant, her parents carried her across the Southwest border with the hope of giving her and her siblings with a better life. Denisse’s family settled in Fremont, California. Denisse said, “In grade school, I recall feeling different from my peers. … my skin color was darker, my English was stilted, I was poor, and I was undocumented.”

In 2012, when President Obama established DACA, Denisse’s life changed. As a DACA recipient, Denisse’s dreams finally seemed within reach. She was able to apply to medical schools that before would have turned her away because of her immigration status. This meant that she could focus on pursuing a career in medicine and no longer fear the possibility of losing the only home she had ever known.

Denisse told me: “I have pledged allegiance to this nation’s values since my first day of school; I consider the United States my home. Furthermore, serving others has instilled in me the notion that everyone deserves the opportunity for prosperity. I thus aim to dedicate my life to serving others as a physician and continuing to be a voice for immigrants.”

Jean Yannick Diouf

When Yannick was 8, his father, a diplomat from the African country of Senegal, brought his family to the United States.  Unfortunately, Yannick’s parents separated, and Yannick’s father returned to Senegal, leaving Yannick and the rest of the family behind.  Yannick didn’t realize it at the time, but when his father left the United States, Yannick lost his legal status to live in this country.  Yannick – an honors student and community leader who is currently studying business management at the University of Maryland, College Park – told me that, to him, “DACA means dignity. More than making money, having a job gives us dignity and self-respect. I want to work for what I have.   I don’t look to anyone for pity.  People should judge me based on what I do and what I stand for, not based on status. I want to be given a chance to prove that not only am I a functioning member of society, I am here to serve and share my talents with those in my community.”

Maria Ibarra-Frayre

Because of DACA, Maria has been able to work as a full-time Program Coordinator for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a Catholic community service organization that helps people in need. She has applied to graduate schools for social work and plans to become an advocate for victims of domestic violence. She graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy as the valedictorian of her class, with a major in English and Social Work. In a letter to me, this is what Maria said about DACA: “DACA means showing the rest of the country, society, and my community what I can do. I have always known what I’m capable of, but DACA has allowed me to show others that the investment and opportunity that DACA provides is worth it.” Would America be a stronger nation if we deported her? Absolutely not.

Mithi Del Rosario

Mithi is a Dreamer, UCLA graduate with a degree in psychology, and during her spare time she chooses to volunteer with the autism research lab. She is now applying to medical school and her promising career has been made possible through President Obama’s DACA Program. She had this to say about members of Congress who want to shut down the DACA program and deport Dreamers: “Please, please listen to our stories. This is my home, and the only country I know. DACA gives us greater opportunities to give back to the country we love.”

Jirayut New

New Latthivongskorn was brought to the United States from Thailand when he was 9 years old. New grew up in San Francisco, California, became an excellent student, and dreamed of becoming a doctor. A month after New graduated from Cal-Berkeley with honors, a 3.7 grade point average, and a major in Molecular and Cellular Biology, President Obama established the DACA program. DACA has allowed New to begin medical school and pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. New and other Dreamers like him have so much to contribute to our country. But if the Republicans have their way, New will be deported back to Thailand. Let’s remind them that #DACAworks.

Herta Llusho

Herta Llusho was brought to the United States from Albania when she was 11. Because of DACA she was able to graduate from the University of Detroit Mercy with a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering, with a specialization in robotics. During her master’s program, Herta was on the Dean’s List every semester and she received the “Student of the Year” award, as well as the “Thesis Award” for her master’s thesis. She is now working as an engineer at an energy company in Michigan. She also volunteers at her church, where she runs a youth group. In a letter to me, this is what Herta had to say about DACA: “DACA has been life changing for me, because at a time when my life was at a standstill, DACA gave me a chance to continue my education and advancement the engineering field, so I can contribute to the country I call home.” Republicans have demanded we deport Herta, and 600,000 Dreamers just like her, in exchange for funding the Department of Homeland Security that keeps our country safe.

Nelson and Jhon Magdaleno

Nelson and Jhon were brought to the United States from Venezuela when Nelson was 11 and Jhon was 9. They both went on to the Georgia Institute of Technology, one of the most selective engineering schools in America. Nelson graduated with honors with a major in computer engineering. Jhon graduated last year with a major in chemical and biomedical engineering with highest honors. DACA has allowed Nelson and Jhon to contribute their talents to our economy by working for Fortune 500 companies; Nelson works as a computer engineer and Jhon as process engineer.

In a letter to me, Nelson wrote: “To me DACA means an opportunity to be able to live my dreams and contribute to society in ways that I could not have imagined. DACA means that one of my life goals, owning my own company, could be a possibility in the future. DACA means a chance. DACA means the American Dream.” In another letter to me, Jhon wrote: “I consider an American to be someone who loves, and wholeheartedly dedicates themselves to the development of this country. From age nine, I have made the United States my home, and it has made me the man I am today. I proudly call myself an American.”

Johana Mehias

Johana was brought to the United States from Venezuela when she was a child. In 2011, she graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a double major in Molecular, Cellular, and Development Biology, and Psychology-Neuroscience. DACA has allowed Johana to study medicine at Loyola University Chicago. Johana wrote me a letter that said: “When the year 2012 came along, my life changed. My dreams of becoming a doctor became a possibility again because of DACA. I was now able to apply to medical internship programs, take the medical school entrance exam, and apply to medical school, all because of my DACA status. DACA has defined my path. DACA has relit a fire within to succeed and continue to pursue my dreams.” Johana has committed to stay in Illinois after she graduates and help serve parts of our state that have a shortage of doctors.

Everardo Arias

Everardo was brought to the United States from Mexico in 1997, when he was 7 years old. He grew up in California and became an excellent student. When Everardo was a sophomore in college, he met with a counselor who told him he had almost no chance of becoming a doctor, because he was undocumented. Everardo didn’t give up on his dream. Shortly after he graduated, President Obama established the DACA program. After he received DACA, Everardo worked as a health educator through Americorps and, now, is in his first year at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine. In a letter to me he had this to say about DACA, “DACA changed my life. It opened the door to the future ahead of me. If it weren’t for DACA I would not be here and I probably would not have pursued medicine. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to do what I love to do and to give back to my country.”

Pablo da Silva

Pablo is a Dreamer who grew up in New Jersey, but is now studying to become a doctor at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine. He had this to say about what DACA has meant in his life, “DACA has allowed me to fulfill my long-lasting aspiration to pursue a career in medicine. It has truly changed my future and for that I’m truly grateful. I’m eager to contribute my share to the country I call my own.”


The House Republicans want to deport aspiring doctors, like Pablo, in order to fund the Department of Homeland Security. This country should never put politics in the way of dreams and aspirations.

Aaima Sayed

Aaima Sayed, a ?Dreamer and student at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, said this about DACA’s impact on her: “I went from feeling hopeless and full of uncertainty regarding my future to feeling confident and optimistic that I will one day get the opportunity to help my community and people in other poverty-stricken areas.” If the House Republicans have their way, Aaima won’t be able to attend medical school, or become a doctor. Instead, she will be deported back to Pakistan, a country where she hasn’t lived since she was a toddler. 

Karen Villagomez

Karen was brought to the United States from Mexico when she was just two years old. She grew up in Chicago, was an outstanding student, and always had an interest in public service. In May 2012, she graduated from the University of Rochester in New York with a major in political science.

Just one month after Karen graduated, President Obama created the DACA program. After she applied and cleared for DACA, she found a job as a paralegal at a law firm in Chicago. Bright and engaging, Karen has also served as an intern in my office.

Karen had this to say on DACA: “DACA represents the values and heritage of this country of immigrants; it was the right thing to do and it has changed my life by replacing fear with hope. This executive action gave me an overwhelming sense of relief and hope. It lifted me from the shadows.”

Juan Rios

Like many Dreamers, Juan was brought to the United States as a child. Juan arrived in the U.S. when he was just 10 years old with his family. In high school, Juan decided what his calling was: military service. He became a leader at the Air Force ROTC in his high school, Group Commander and Arm Drill Team Captain, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

In 2010, Juan enrolled in Arizona State University where he studied aeronautical engineering. In February 2013, Juan signed up for DACA and had his first interview. He now works as a mechanical engineer in the semiconductor industry. 

In a recent letter to Senator Durbin, Juan shared his DACA experience:

“I am fortunate to have found the opportunity to prove myself as a professional and to work in a place where I feel my contributions are valued and recognized. The past two years have changed my life in every way imaginable. I think DACA is a responsibility, a privilege, and an opportunity for everyone who receives it to demonstrate that we as a community of Dreamers have so much to contribute to society.” 

Ola Kaso

Ola was brought to the United States from Albania at the age of five. She grew up in Warren, Michigan, and her dream was to become a medical doctor and to treat cancer patients. The valedictorian of her high school class, Ola took every Advanced Placement class her school offered and had a 4.4 GPA. She was treasurer of student council and treasurer of the National Honors Society in her school.

In 2011, I held a hearing on the Dream Act. Ola had just graduated high school and came to testify at the hearing. She was the first-ever undocumented immigrant to testify before the Senate.

Ola is now enrolled in the honors program at the University of Michigan, where she is a pre-med student. She will soon graduate with a double major in biochemistry and women’s studies. Keep in mind, she completed this degree without any financial assistance from our government.

In a letter sent to Senator Durbin, Ola said:

“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.”

Ola isn’t alone. There are so many Dreamers across the country just like her who want to be a part of America’s future. It’s clear that DACA works. 

Pierre Berstain

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.

Carlos Martinez

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.

Erika Andiola

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.

Maria Gomez

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.”

Kelsey Burke

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.”

Angelica Hernandez

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 Oustanding 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.

Manny Bartsch

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.”

Al Okere

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.

Sahid Limon

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.”

Ayded Reyes

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.

Dulce Matuz

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.’”

Yaniv Steltzer

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.

Carlos and Rafael Robles

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.”

Alaa Mukahhal

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.”

Maria Luna

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.”

Jose Librojo

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.

Minhaz Khan

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.”

Joaquin Luna

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.

Amanda Uruchurtu

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.

Karla Contreras

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.”

Fanny Martinez

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. Earlier this 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.

Mandeep Chahal

Mandeep Chahal was brought to the United States from India 14 years ago, when she was only 6 years old. Today, Mandeep is 20. She is an academic all-star. She is an honors pre-med student at the University of California Davis, where she is majoring in neurology, physiology, and behavior.

Mandeep is also dedicated to public service. In high school, she helped to found One Dollar for Life, a national poverty relief organization. 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 to our country. Unfortunately she was placed in deportation proceedings earlier this year. Mandeep and her friends responded the way many young people do today – they went to Facebook to ask for help. The response was nothing short of amazing. Nearly 20,000 people sent faxes to the Department of Homeland Security asking them not to deport Mandeep.

On the day she was scheduled to be deported, Mandeep was granted a one-year stay. Mandeep’s first thought was to try to prevent other young people from going through the same thing that she had. Just a week after her deportation was suspended, Mandeep came to the U.S. Capitol to speak about her experience and to call for the deportations of all DREAM Act students to be suspended.

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.

Dominique and Tapiwa Nkata

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.

Jose Magana

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.  

Diana Banda

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.

Monji Dolon

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.

Juan Rios

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.”

Herta Llusho

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 junior 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.”

Julieta Garibay

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 DREAM Act would give Julieta a chance to serve the country she loves.

Juan Gomez

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 is going to graduate from Georgetown in May. He has been offered a job 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.

Ola Kaso

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

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

Ola has been accepted into the honors program at the University of Michigan, where she will be 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.

Elier Lara

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% 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 a 19-year-old honors student at the University of Cincinnati. He is majoring in Information Technology and has a 3.8 GPA. 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.

Nelson and Jhon Magdaleno

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 University, one of the most selective engineering schools in America. Nelson, who is now 21, is a junior. He is a computer engineering major with a 3.6 GPA. Jhon, who is now 18, is a freshman. He is a biomedical engineering major with a 4.0 GPA.

America needs more talented young engineers like Nelson and Jhon but, unfortunately, they were 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.”

Pedro Pedroza

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 is now a student at 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.”

Steve Li

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. In fact, the United States imports thousands of foreign nurses every year because we have such a large nursing shortage.

Unfortunately, Steve is in deportation proceedings. His case is especially complicated because – while his parents are Chinese – he was born in Peru. So he would be deported back to Peru, where he knows no one and has no family members.

Tolu Olubumni

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.

David Cho

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 is now a senior at UCLA, where he is majoring in International Finance and has a 3.6 GPA. David is also the leader of the UCLA marching band.

David wants to serve in the Air Force. If the DREAM Act doesn’t pass, David won’t be able to serve his country.

Gaby Pacheco

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.

Cesar Vargas

Cesar Vargas was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by his parents when he was 5. He is currently a student at the City University of New York School of Law, where he founded the Prosecutor Law Students Association. Cesar recently 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.

Eric Balderas

Eric Balderas just finished his freshman year at Harvard, 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.

Mayra Garcia

Mayra Garcia was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by her parents in 1994, when she was 2. Mayra, is now 18. She is 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."

Benita Veliz

Benita Veliz was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by her parents in 1993, when she was 8. 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."

Minchul Suk

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."

Trail of Dreams Students

Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco, Juan Rodriguez, and Carlos Roa, four DREAM Act students also known as the Trail of Dreams, walked 1500 miles from Miami to Washington DC to raise awareness about the DREAM Act.

Marie Gonzalez

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."

Tam Tran

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.

Oscar Vazquez

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 two-year-old 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. Oscar is in basic training now. His goal is to pilot an Apache helicopter. In June, Oscar will complete basic training, and he will be sworn in as an American citizen.

Tereza Lee

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.