Author

I am a communications intern at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in Durham, NC.

Felipe Matos is among the top 20 community college students in America, but he’s ineligible for financial aid at the top universities that have accepted him. Gaby Pacheco has three education degrees and plans to use music therapy as a teaching tool for autistic children and adults. Brought to the United States at age 2, Carlos Roa wanted to join the military but could not because of his immigration status.

Three months ago, they embarked on Trail of Dreams, a 1,500 mile walk from Miami to Washington.  These students are facing much more than sore feet; several are undocumented, and they risk deportation and detention to share their stories and raise awareness about the need for just immigration reform.

These students exemplify why support is growing for the DREAM Act, federal legislation that would enable students brought to the U.S. at a young age to legally access higher education and financial aid. Every year, 65,000 students graduate U.S. high schools but are denied a college education because of our broken and unjust immigration system.  These students include valedictorians, class presidents and community leaders.  Yet they are refused the opportunity to further their education and give back to America — the country they see as their home.

Just graduating high school can be more challenging for undocumented students than for their peers; they often must learn English as a second language, take care of family responsibilities that their parents cannot manage without understanding English, overcome low socio-economic status and all that that entails, and cope with the psychological trauma of living in fear of deportation.

Trail of Dreams, which made its way through the Triangle last week, is a journey of hope for these students and the 12 million undocumented migrants in the United States.

For more information, check out the Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s Statement of Support.

For Edwin Aly Ramirez of Greensboro, his first thought after being arrested on immigration charges was that he would never see his wife and three children again.  Mr. Ramirez was asked about his status and arrested after he had gone to court to help translate for a friend.  “I thought I would never get to meet my newborn,” he said.

That is the fear — and the daily reality — of 12 million people living in this country.  They work in your office, clean your house, go to your school, and tomorrow, they might be gone.

Undocumented immigrants do not have the same right to due process and a fair trial afforded U.S. citizens.  If immigrants cannot post bond immediately after entering Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, it can dramatically affect their case.  Detainees are often accelerated into deportation proceedings, which are difficult to contest because they  do not have the right to an attorney if they cannot afford one, face language barriers, and lack access to the documents they need to build their case while in custody.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice partnered with the National Immigrant Bond Fund to combat this injustice and pursue dignity and due process for immigrants.

Since September, SCSJ has used the Bond Fund to help seven families, including Edwin’s, by providing zero interest matching loans to immigrants who cannot afford to pay full bond.  The Fund may play only a small role in the overall fight for human rights, but it has a dramatic and tangible impact on immigrant families.

“When immigrants are detained without being able to pay their bond, they are denied the ability to fully defend their right to stay in this country, which often unjustly results in their being deported without being able to see their families or tie up outstanding obligations,” said SCSJ staff attorney Marty Rosenbluth.

Edwin chokes up when he recalls his relief at seeing his three children after being released on bond. “I just want them to have a good life; a good education.”

For more information check out SCSJ’swebsite.