First lady Jill Biden gave a commencement speech Thursday for college graduate Dreamers, the young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, telling them: “We stand with you.”
“You have achieved and completed something that will change your life forever,” the first lady told immigrant graduates in a virtual event organized by TheDream.US, which provides scholarships to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Biden added that as an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College, she’s had many students who are “new Americans,” refugees and “Dreamers who were brought to America as young children.”
“We know you have so much to contribute to this nation in the days ahead,” Biden added. “We stand with you. Never stop dreaming.”
The first lady noted how many Dreamers have had to live “in fear of being forced to return to countries they’ve never known,” adding that her husband, President Joe Biden, is working on policies to create “fair pathways to citizenship for students like you.”
President Biden has been pushing several immigration bills in Congress: one to provide permanent resident status to DACA recipients and others to provide a path to citizenship for farmworkers and other undocumented immigrants.
However, immigration reform efforts passed by the Democratic-led House face tough odds in the closely divided Senate.
During the commencement ceremony, written testimonies from this year’s immigrant graduates played on screen, including one that read: “Para mis padres que llegaron sin nada pero me dieron todo” — or in English: “For my parents who arrived with nothing but gave me everything.”
DACA recipients have long been pushing for permanent protections not just for themselves and others brought to the U.S. as children but for all 11 million or so undocumented immigrants living in the country.
In a separate speech at Thursday’s event, Ewaoluwa Ogundana, a DACA recipient graduating from Trinity Washington University in the District of Columbia, spoke of how she and her undocumented peers were “innately overcomers.”
More than 1,000 immigrant students associated with TheDream.US are expected to graduate this year across 77 colleges in more than a dozen states, according to the organization.
Looking over the past year, Ogundana spoke of how “the immigrant community faced threats to their livelihood because of an unjust administration.” She said that, after former President Donald Trump tried to end the DACA program, their protections were left in limbo, as “no one was sure which way the case would go.”
“Yet here we are a year later, able to testify about a positive decision on our side and look back and see that we overcame,” the student added, referring to the Supreme Court ruling that reinstated DACA.
“This struggle of being undocumented is not a permanent one,” Ogundana said. “It seems like it now, but I know and continue to hope for that day where we can all share how we overcame and became United States citizens.”