We are pleased to partner with WFYI to present a series of powerful essays on Spirit & Place Festival’s 20th anniversary theme, DREAM.
By Katherine Souchet-Downey,
On December 18, 2010, I sat in a packed room, eyes glued to C-SPAN’s coverage of Capitol Hill. Nervous chatter surrounded me as U.S. Senators submitted votes on whether to end debate on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors – DREAM – Act, a legislation providing a pathway for undocumented students to earn legal immigration status. This was a significant vote as the House of Representatives had already approved a version of the bill, and cloture in the Senate could lead to eventual passage into law. Originally introduced in 2001, DREAM had never advanced this far.
Final vote: The “Nays” outweighed the “Yaes”.
Amidst set-backs and tears over the years, I have witnessed tenacity in these youth that motivates me.
A wave of emotions washed over me. Guilt because as a U.S. citizen born in Puerto Rico, I was not directly affected. I had recently completed a graduate degree and was working a job that I loved. Compared to others in the room, my future felt unencumbered largely due to my birthplace. Remorse as I wondered what else we might have done to influence a different outcome. Anger because many of the students were Hoosiers from an early age and had grown up attending Indianapolis schools. Their parents had a fierce commitment to education despite having limited formal schooling themselves. Sadness in realizing that there would be continued criminalization of these young people and their families who simply wanted a shot to fully contribute to the country they call home.
The overshadowing sentiment, however, was one of perseverance. These undocumented youth refuse to allow a piece of legislation to define their future. Despite the outcome on the Senate floor, they remain dedicated to their educational pursuits and service in our community at a level that I never experienced before. Today, many of them are professionals in a variety of fields including education, engineering and architecture. They are able to legally work under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, but have no guarantee of how long this program will continue. Amidst set-backs and tears over the years, I have witnessed tenacity in these youth that motivates me. To provide opportunities for all young people who are working hard to achieve the “American Dream”. To identify humane and sensible policies that are fitting of our increasingly interconnected world. To create a community that is accepting of all persons, regardless of where we were born and how we got here. My life and our community are better because of their dreams.
To listen to the audio version of this essay click here!
About the author
Katherine Souchet-Downey is an immigration iaison and Latino Outreach Coordinator for the Office of Congressman André Carson. she also serves as a board member for The Latino Youth Collective of Indiana.