End of the road; MDC's DREAMers back home
Alexandra de Armas
Standing on the steps of the historic Freedom Tower— hands covering her heart and tears streaming down her face— Gaby Pacheco announced that she is happy to be home.
“We [don’t] need a GPS anymore because this is our home,” Pacheco said. “These were the streets that I grew up on. How can anyone tell me that I do not belong here?”
Pacheco is one of four former or current Miami Dade College students— Carlos Roa, Felipe Matos and Juan Rodriguez are the others—who embarked on a 1,500 mile walk to Washington, D.C. on Jan. 1 in protest of immigration reform.
Five months later, a crowd of almost 100 people welcomed the walkers back on a typical, hot and muggy Miami afternoon. They were serenaded with cheers of “education not deportation.”
“This was a walk for love. We did this because our community can no longer live with the fear of being deported,” Roa said. “That is why I walked, because I was tired of living in the shadows, voiceless and waiting for my deportation.”
The quartet, whose mission was dubbed “The Trail of Dreams”, faced adversity during their voyage. Three of the walkers faced the possibility of being deported, because they are undocumented immigrants.
They walked through the heat, rain and the snow using three pairs of sneakers each to finish their mission.
And not all the communities they walked through were welcoming. They encountered the Ku Klux Klan, and some people spewed racially hateful comments at them.
“In North Carolina, a man looked me in the eyes and said I was not completely human,” Matos said. “I just looked at him and said ‘God bless you. ' ’’
The walkers’ demonstration was documented by the main stream media. The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Miami Herald wrote articles about the Trail of Dreams. Univision and CNN interviewed them.
“I consider them as our generation’s heroes,” said Camila Silva, a member of Students Working for Equal Rights at the Kendall Campus. “And I hope that one day they will be given the credit for everything they have fought for. If we don’t have people that are courageous like them, to speak for those that can’t speak, nothing will ever happen.”
Their goal, they say, is to end the separation of families and the deportation of students like themselves, who according to Roa, are “only here to contribute to society and who only come to this country to study.”
The group took that message with them when they reached Washington D.C. on April 28. They walked the last six miles to the White House with a group of 4,000 people representing 20 states. They reached their destination on May 1.
When they arrived at the White House, the walkers spoke to Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama. They presented her a petition with 40,000 signatures asking the administration to stop the deportation of DREAM Act students and undocumented immigrants that are either parents or spouses to U.S. citizens.
“We can no longer live in a system that oppresses people…” Roa said. “We need to stand up and reclaim our humanity. It must be acknowledged by the United States government.”
Jarrett agreed to a meeting later this month, in which the walkers will be given the administration’s answer.
“I felt emotional by the moment, yet still felt the responsibility to keep fighting and continue being the voice of all the undocumented students in the U.S.,” Matos said.
The four walkers said they will continue to fight for the rights of undocumented immigrants and for immigration reform.
“I was someone who believed in change,” Matos said, “and now I know that change is possible.”
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