By Maria Pesqueira –
As an immigrant brought to this country at a young age myself, I can relate to the stories of young men and women who desire better opportunities for themselves and for this country.
I can remember being brought to this country from Guanajuato, Mexico, at the age of six, leaving behind the only home I had known and not knowing what my future would hold. My parents, like many immigrants, came to the United States for a better future. Knowing that both of them would have to work, they left me in Mexico, in the care of my aunt.
After they settled in the United States, they brought me to live with them in Summit, Ill.
At age six now being in Illinois, I rapidly learned English. While I still have fond memories of my aunt who helped raise me, I quickly adjusted to my new home and adopted country. Looking back, I was no different than the courageous young men and women who have stepped forward for a better future. I am living proof of the benefits that the DREAM Act would bring the next generation of “Dreamers.”
The DREAM Act is a bipartisan bill that would provide a path to citizenship for youth who graduate from U.S. high schools, stay out of trouble, arrived to the United States before the age of 16, and complete at least two years of college or serve in the armed forces. Every year, 65,000 students graduate from a U.S. high school without the realistic possibility of following their dreams. These students grew up here and want to contribute to this country.
After having passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Dec. 8, the bill now moves onto a vote in the Senate, scheduled for Saturday.
My organization supports the DREAM Act because Latinas have the lowest level of formal education among women of all racial groups. As a result, they face the greatest disadvantage regarding high skilled employment opportunities. Immigrant Latinas have higher unemployment rates, lower education levels, lower average incomes, and are more occupationally concentrated than Latina U.S. citizens.
Being raised and educated in the United States has brought me many opportunities. I graduated from De Paul University. I own my own home. I have a career and job I love which has allowed me to giveback to the community.
This bill will come to a final decision soon and we need to think about the many possibilities these students may have to give back to this country, if given the genuine opportunity. If we cannot support this legislative bill we are doing a disservice to an entire generation. The generation that can perhaps find the cure to cancer, bring this country to economic stability and set the example for future generations.
It is my hope that the Senate see that it is more than just a bill but a pathway that will allow these students the opportunity to contribute, to strengthen and to empower this nation to move forward. As an immigrant myself, I identify with the students’ anguish and share their hope of the DREAM Act’s passage.
Maria S. Pesqueira is President and CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Accion, a 37-year old community organization whose mission is to empower Latinas and their families through providing services, which reflect their values and culture and advocating on the issues that make a difference in their lives. An immigrant from Guanajuato, Mexico, she serves as the Vice-President of the Board of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.