Much attention has gone toward the stories of Dreamers and their plight in recent years while less has been said about the parents of dreamers.
But that is about to change as Dreamers gear up to bring their parents out of the shadows and fight beside them for an immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
VOXXI spoke with parents of Dreamers during the United We Dream National Congress, which was held over the weekend in Kansas City, Missouri. Here are their stories.
Parents of Dreamers share their stories
Chela Praeli and her husband immigrated to the United States from Peru 13 years ago to seek medical treatment for their daughter whose leg was amputated following a car accident.
They now live in Connecticut where their 24-year-old daughter, Lorella, graduated from Quinnipiac University last year with a bachelor’s degree in political science and sociology.
Lorella is one of the national leaders with the United We Dream Network. As the organization’s director of advocacy and policy, she is one of the Dreamers leading the Dreamers’ movement in a new direction, one that includes advocating for a broad immigration reform.
A few years ago, Lorella publicly came out as “undocumented and unafraid,” a move that made her mother feel uneasy. Lorella’s mother said she remembers questioning her daughter for publicly outing her undocumented status and feeling fear that it would have negative repercussions.
“Back then, I didn’t understand why she did that,” Lorella’s mother told VOXXI. “But now I see why she did it, and that courage she had to do it gave me more courage and security to fight in life.”
Though she said she supports the DREAM Act, she said she would like to see Congress pass an immigration reform, because it would make Dreamers feel at ease knowing that their parents are safe from deportation.
“They also suffer thinking about what’s going to happen to us, the parents,” she said about Dreamers. “They are not happy because they know that we are also suffering and they know that at any moment we can be stopped and detained.”
Cecilia Dennis moved with her daughter to the U.S. from Mexico 20 years ago, seeking a better life for her daughter.
They live in Texas where her daughter, Julieta Garibay, earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in public health nursing from the University of Texas. Garibay became a registered nurse in 2004 and dreams of becoming a military nurse.
But while many Dreamers can now apply for jobs using the work permits given to them under the deferred action program, Garibay can’t. That’s because she is 31-years-old and the federal program requires applicants to be age 30 or younger. She also does not qualify for the DREAM Act, which has the same age requirements as the federal program.
Still, Garibay and her mother continue advocating for the DREAM Act. Her mother often volunteers in workshops designed to help dreamers fill out their applications for deferred action.
At such workshops, Dennis said she has met parents of dreamers who do everything possible, including borrowing money from others or working overtime, to cover the $465 cost for the deferred action application. She has also met parents who don’t care about fixing their own undocumented status as long as their children are able to fix theirs.
“I’m the same way. I also do not care about my status as long as my daughter is able to work and practice her profession,” Dennis told VOXXI.
For that to happen, an immigration reform would have to pass. Dennis said she is confident that it will pass soon. In the meantime, she plans to continue volunteering and advocating for dreamers.
Guadalupe Arreola brought her five children to the U.S. from Mexico 15 years ago in an attempt to escape domestic violence.
They live in Arizona where one of her youngest daughters, Erika Andiola, graduated from Arizona State University in 2009 and became the first in the family to obtain a college degree.
Andiola, 25, got arrested inside Democratic Sen. Harry Reid’s Washington, D.C., office after participating in a civil disobedience action in support of the DREAM Act in 2010. She has also stood up to politicians who oppose the DREAM Act, including Kris Kobach and Mitt Romney, and has been a national leader with the United We Dream Network.
Arreola said she attended the United We Dream Congress to show support for all the Dreamers, especially her daughter.
“I have learned so much from my daughter, Erika, because she is more mature than I am,” Arreola told VOXXI. “She is my idol. I admire her so much, because she was born with a gift of being a leader, a fighter and a warrior.”
Though she said passing the DREAM Act would be the right thing to do, she would like Congress to approve an immigration reform. That’s because three of her five sons and daughters are older than 30 years old and wouldn’t qualify for the DREAM Act, which has an age cap of 30.
“I want the DREAM Act to pass, but what about my three children? What will happen with them?” she told VOXXI.
Juan Jose Zorrilla
Juan Jose Zorrilla swam across the Rio Grande several times to come into the U.S. and work to support his family in Mexico. He did that for four years before deciding in 1996 to bring his family to live with him in Wisconsin.
He told dreamers during the United We Dream National Congress that immigrant parents bring their children to the U.S., because they want to provide a better life for them. He added that no sacrifice is big enough that they won’t make for their children.
“We don’t care if we have to keep cleaning toilets if it means you’ll succeed,” he told Dreamers while he stood next to his daughter, Lizeth, a national leader with the United We Dream Networks.
Lizeth is currently attending Marquette University where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and another one in Spanish.
He told VOXXI that while he believes parents of Dreamers should unite and stand behind their sons and daughters, these young immigrants don’t need much guidance from their parents anymore.
“These young people are truly informed, they don’t have doubts, they are strong and they are very well aware of what they are doing,” he told VOXXI.
Yolanda Trujano and her husband came from Mexico to the U.S. with their two daughters 15 years ago.
Both of their daughters, Karla and Pamela, are active in the Dreamers’ movement and recently earned college degrees in Texas.
“They are well-integrated into the American lifestyle,” Trujano said. “They feel American not because they were born here but because they grew up here.”
She recalled seeing the frustration her older daughter, Karla, felt when she earned her bachelor’s degree in 2010 and couldn’t work. Pamela, however, didn’t face the same frustration. She graduated this past May, three months before President Barack Obama announced the deferred action program.
Trujano said though she is grateful for the federal program, an immigration reform would be ideal, because her daughters would no longer worry about her being at risk of deportation. She recalled flying for the first time this past weekend to attend the United We Dream National Congress and seeing them worry about her flying using her Mexican passport.
“An immigration reform would provide them a peace of mind and some tranquility, so that they can carry on in their plight and with their daily lives without worrying about us,” she told VOXXI.