When I was 18 I could have - and should have - graduated from college. I was smart enough, but I wasn't very motivated and only did a semester or two before dropping out. I went on to dabble in higher education, on and off, over the next twenty years before finally completing my associates degree in 2007.
I may have mostly squandered my opportunity for higher education, but at least I had the option. Joaquin, and kids like him all across the country, don't have the same choice I had. The rub of it is they are smarter than I ever was and they deserve it more than I ever did, yet it is out of their reach.
If you know me, you know I'm an immigrant rights activist. But I didn't start out to be an activist, I was just a restaurant worker who got tired of witnessing the deplorable things that were happening to my immigrant coworkers. Sometimes there wasn't much I could do to right the wrongs, but not helping was never an option. I don't know about you, but I'd rather live with the regret of failure than the guilt of apathy any day. Even when things seemed hopeless, I still stood up and said "OK, I'll try." Failing never felt good, but at least I always knew I hadn't turned my back or pretended not to notice the suffering right in front of me.
But Joaquin hurts my heart in a more personal place, even though I never met him. He could have been any one of the bright, hardworking kids I've worked with in my many restaurant jobs, kids with potential and no where to go with it. For that matter, he could have been my own eighteen year old. As a mother myself I feel his mother's pain acutely and I wish more than anything that I could give her her baby back, but I can't.
Joaquin and other DREAMERs like him have been fighting for a long time, trying to break through the barriers of prejudice and politics. All they want is to go to college and then reinvest their talent and knowledge here, in the country they call home. They are doing an amazing job keeping attention on the DREAM Act and educating the public about the plight of DREAMERs, despite terrible odds and great personal risk. For Joaquin, thought, it wasn't enough. Somewhere along the way he lost hope and where there isn't any hope, dreams die.
It is too late now for Joaquin, but we're still here, you and I. It isn't too late for us to do something, to give Congress a push and give these kids back some hope.
I'm not asking you to care about this for political reasons - I don't care what it says on your voter registration card. I don't care if the state you live in is red, blue or purple, or if your political mascot is a donkey, an elephant or a water buffalo. I'm asking you this for one reason only - because Joaquin was a child, and all children deserve to dream.
I believe in the power of dreams and I believe in our DREAMERS.
You can help by learning more about the DREAM Act and the DREAMERS themselves. Please take a few moments to do some reading, then call, write or email your elected officials and voice your opinion. Do it today. Do it for Joaquin.
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