by Félix Pérez
Hareth Andrade is a DREAMer. The 19-year-old sophomore at Northern Virginia Community College shares the day-to-day responsibilities and concerns of millions of young college students across America — juggling school and family responsibilities while working and finding a way to pay for her education.
Andrade is thoroughly American in every way except one: she arrived in this country as a child and is therefore subject to deportation. The life she has come to know and her dream of finishing school, helping her family and her community, and contributing back to this country, could be snatched away at any moment.
That was the case, at least, until two months ago, when the Obama administration announced that young, productive aspiring citizens such as Andrade, who have done well in school, worked hard and played by the rules, would temporarily be shielded from deportation and be able to live and work legally in the United States.
Andrade learned of the announcement from a friend while at a retreat with other DREAMers. “When we heard the news, we were silent. We didn’t believe it. Finally, when we saw it on TV, people started crying. We couldn’t believe that we had been fighting for for so long had happened,” Andrade told EdVotes.
“Being one of the students who qualifies for this policy is overwhelming,” said Andrade.
Andrade plans to be among the first to file an application when the registration period for so-called “deferred action” begins August 15. It is another step in a journey she committed herself to in her junior year in high school, when she learned she was undocumented and worked up the courage to tell a school counselor. “I was super excited to know that at least I had somebody that I could trust in the school system,” said Andrade.
Since that day, Andrade has worked to shine a light on the plight of students like her, who come to America with parents or family, grow up here, consider America their home, and are driven to excel in school but must live in fear and shame.
Each year an estimated 65,000 students graduate from high school in the United States but are unable to go to college because of their immigration status. From their ranks were born the Dreamers, a loose-knit network of youth-led organizations around the country that advocate for access to higher education for all people, regardless of their immigration status.
With the support of educators, students across the nation continue to lobby for sensible, permanent and common-sense congressional action, specifically for the approval of the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to permanent legal status for students who are aspiring citizens, came to the United States as children, have grown up here, remained in school and out of trouble and hope to go to college.
Former Utah educator of the year and National Education Association Vice President Lily Eskelsen described the importance of the DREAM Act this way:
The Dream Act is all about kids who don’t take anything for granted. Not their education. Not their responsibilities as a member of society. It was written for kids who have the dream to graduate and go to college and stay here – where they were raised.
Andrade is aware that not all deserving students will be eligible for the “deferred action” program, which is self-funded by registration fees and has narrow eligibility criteria. “While we celebrate the step taken by President Obama, we will continue to fight. We will continue to dream for our families and those students” who don’t qualify, she said.
“I believe education is the train we hop on with or without a ticket because it is the only way to guide our families through the struggle.”
- Do you know a student who might qualify for “deferred action”? Read responses to the most frequently asked questions about the program.
- To read the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “deferred action” program eligibility criteria, go here.
- Come back next week, when we will feature an educator who believes America is strengthened by holding onto aspiring young citizens who love our country and are contributing to it.