Keep on Walking - The Trail of Dreams

This week, in a letter addressed to Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) asked the DHS to halt the deportations of immigrant youth eligible for the "Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act" (S.729). The "DREAM Act," federal legislation that would establish a path to legal status for immigrant students, has been introduced in Congress numerous times as a standalone bill and incorporated into proposed comprehensive immigration reform. In all of these efforts, Senators Durbin and Lugar have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to addressing the challenges that immigrant youth face, and their leadership has been critical in advancing proposals to reform our immigration system.
Their action is encouraging for the many students who are forced to live in fear of being separated from their families and removed from the only country they have ever considered home. The individuals who would benefit from halting the deportations have every desire to advance themselves and become productive members of our society. Our nation will lose a great deal of talent if these young men and women are deported.

The senators' request comes at a critical moment. Now, when immigrant communities are under attack and the need for immigration reform continues to grow, their gesture stands as an extraordinary example of bipartisan collaboration with the hope of resulting in fair and pragmatic solutions that will lead our country forward. Senators Durbin and Lugar recognize the moral imperative for action on immigration reform, and through their efforts they have demonstrated that it is time for our leaders to confront this issue. These acts should be seen as a call to action for all our leaders to end the suffering inflicted by a broken immigration system that has separated families, stirred great fear across many communities, and continues to suppress the dreams of talented immigrant students.

These same circumstances fueled a group of immigrant youth to undertake a 1,500-mile walk on January 1, 2010, from Florida to our nation's capital. Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco, Carlos Roa, and Juan Rodriguez have come together as a part of the Trail of Dreams. They've confronted significant risks along the way in an attempt to show Congress that their situation is intolerable. In their journey, they have been inspired by the ideals and aspirations that have shaped our country for generations--a commitment to fairness, a selfless desire to improve the lives of future generations, and hopes for an opportunity to fulfill their individual potential. As their May 1 arrival in Washington, DC approaches, the experience of these courageous young leaders should serve as an example to Congress and the president of the need for courage and real leadership on comprehensive immigration reform.

By serving as champions for these individuals, Senators Durbin and Lugar have shown that our federal government must commit itself to addressing the fundamental inadequacies of our broken immigration laws rather than continuing to rely on measures that fail to target the root of the problem. Along with many of our allies, NCLR has supported deferred action on a number of individual cases involving the deportation of immigrant youth. We urge the DHS to consider Senators Durbin and Lugar's request. We hope that their example spurs continued bipartisanship among our nation's leaders so we will arrive at solutions that address the struggles of this vulnerable population and reform our broken immigration system once and for all.