Home is where the heart is, as the famous quote says. But what if home is a place where being American by heart is not enough without legal documentation? Celebrating Independence Day for many DREAMers means patriotically celebrating where they grew up— the place they call home— regardless of where they were born or their immigration status.
“We’re celebrating the American dream we are fighting for,” says DREAM Act activist and United We Dream field organizer Maria Fernanda Cabello. “It’s a very special day because DREAMers are celebrating a 4th of July without fear of deportation.”
Like so many other undocumented youth, Cabello was brought to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 12. She is now an immigration reform activist fighting for change and equality—not only for her and fellow students, but also for parents and families.
“We want them to see our parents as part of this country,” says Cabello. “I want my parents to have a pathway to citizenship and be able to visit my grandparents in Mexico with the option to come back to the country we call home.”
The United We Dream organization, led by thousands of young DREAMer activists, has become a national political force. The group has consistently advocated for the Dream Act, and was instrumental in putting pressure behind deferring deportation for DREAMers, which resulted in President Obama‘s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In recent months, the group has been mobilizing in Washington and in communities across the country as they call for comprehensive reform legislation.
“We seek to address the inequities and obstacles faced by immigrant youth and believe that by empowering immigrant youth, we can advance the cause of the entire community—justice for all immigrants,” reads the statement. “We have the power to redefine what is possible.”
Just yesterday, 16-year-old DREAMer Dulce Elias gave a tearful plea at a Virginia town hall meeting held by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who has opposed a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
“I am an American, I’ve been here all my life– I don’t remember Mexico, I don’t remember anybody there,” said the 16-year-old DREAMer.
But today on Independence Day, in the place Cabello calls home, it is just a time to celebrate -and be an American.
“We’re part of this country,” Cabello said. “We celebrate for the delight— the red, white, and blue stripes. We’ll be going to the parade and watching the fireworks.”