Vivian Deleon, a 19-year-old Dreamer from Boston, is getting ready to graduate from high school next month, but her father won’t be there to see her graduate. That’s because he was deported back to Guatemala more than a year ago.
Deleon’s father, a mechanic, was on his way to work in August 2011 when local police arrested him during a traffic stop in Salem, Mass. He was turned over to immigration officials and he signed his voluntary deportation three months later.
“My dad’s deportation changed my life and my family’s life,” Deleon told VOXXI. She has been living in the United States for almost 11 years. In January, she was approved for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows her to stay and work in the United States.
At 19-years-old, Deleon has had to step in and work to provide for her 6-year-old brother, who is a U.S. citizen, and her mother, who isn’t able to work because of a medical condition. She also sends money to her father in Guatemala, because he has been struggling to find a well-paying job there.
Her father’s deportation has also caused Deleon to change her plans after high school. She recently got accepted to study pre-med at Tufts University, but she can’t afford to study there because she has to provide for her family and her father. Instead, she plans to work full-time and attend a community college.
“When I share my story, I really hope people see this is a big problem,” she said, referring to families being separated because of deportations. “I want people to see the pain and the struggle that this causes. We need immigration reform so this won’t happen anymore.”
Dreamers want ‘right to reunite’ waiver in immigration reform bill
Deleon is part of the Dream 11, a group of 11 Dreamers whose parents have been deported. Together, they’re calling for an immigration reform bill that includes a “right to reunite” waiver so Dreamers’ families who’ve been divided by deportations can be reunited.
The Dream 11 is part of a campaign put together by United We Dream, the nation’s largest immigrant youth-led organization. The group was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, sharing their stories outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Inside the building, the Senate Judiciary Committee continued the markup of the Senate-introduced immigration reform bill. The committee is slated to vote on the bill by the end of this week.
“The purpose of the Dream 11 campaign is to show that we need family reunification included in immigration reform,” Ray Jose, an organizer with United We Dream and a Dreamer from the Philippines, told VOXXI.
As it’s currently written, the immigration bill states that a person who was deported would be able to come back to the U.S. but only if that person was deported for non-criminal reasons and is the spouse or parent of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. United We Dream wants to change the language of the bill to allow Dreamers who would be granted Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status under the bill to petition for their parents who’ve been deported.
The Dream 11 campaign is part of a new approach United We Dream is taking to advocate for an immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S. The group decided to take this new approach last December during a conference held in Kansas City, Missouri, where about 600 Dreamers and allies gathered.
“We made that decision together—that no one will be left behind,” Jose said.