RENO, NV - “I remember September 11th like it was yesterday,” 23-year-old Lucas Da Silva said. “I remember crossing the Queensboro Bridge on my way home and looking down at downtown Manhattan and seeing the smoke rising up, I felt just as patriotic that day as any other American.”
He came to this country when he was a year old from Brazil but has never been a citizen. And for a college student with plans of attending law school, that’s caused its share of problems.
“The biggest challenge for me was having to hit in my high school guidance counselor’s office my senior year, asking her what my options were as an undocumented youth shooting for college, and having her turn around and say I’m illegal so I should just work on a farm,” Da Silva said. “Hearing that at 18 when you have all these ideas and dreams in your mind, I just remember sitting at graduation holding back tears knowing I was limited because of my status.”
Now that he’s following his dreams, he’s made it a goal to throw his support behind the DREAM act. It’s an acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors and it’s designed to help young people raised in America achieve their dreams.
“In a time when we’re recovering from an economic recession and we’re talking about youth in this nation, those that have been raised here, they know no other home,” Da Silva said. “Brazil is a foreign country to me. I grew up here, English is my native language and I think that if we are to work together to solve our problems we need to be inclusive, to adhere to our values of equality and diversity as a nation.”
He and five others facing similar situations are in the process of walking from San Francisco to Washington, DC in an effort to raise awareness about the DREAM act and just what it means to people like them.
“We’re going through 13 states and 285 communities and our goal is to have all those communities in all those states support the federal DREAM act,” marcher Jonatan Martinez said. “So when we get to Washington we have a tremendous amount of support from across the country so that the legislators can see that we have a lot of support.”
They plan to arrive in Washington in November, right before the elections. They’ve been walking 15 to 20 miles a day since March 10th and say they’ve gotten a lot of positive reinforcement.
“California was very optimistic about this whole thing, they supported us a hundred percent so we’re hoping to encounter some of the people opposed to this so we can change a few hearts, change a few minds.”
The legislation has been around for a decade but has never garnered enough support. Opponents say it would raise economic and social concerns for taxpayers and citizens. Supporters say it’s worded to help those who would help our economy.
“Some of the biggest frustrations of my life have been knowing what my potential is and what I can contribute to this country and not being able to pursue those things,” 25-year-old Nicolas Gonzales said. He was born in Mexico grew up and went to school in America. He currently lives in Chicago and hopes he’ll get the chance to go to college.
“I’m speaking for the undocumented community that is suffering every day because of unjust laws,” Gonzales said. “There are so many loopholes and we need to fix the system. We want to contribute to this country and this is a legislature that can help us do that.”
The Unitarian Universalist Church hosted the group on Wednesday; they are traveling with a donated RV as lodging.