Temple for DREAM members will rally in Old City this week.
Local youth plan to step out of the shadows and declare themselves as undocumented citizens at a Coming Out Rally in Old City planned for this Thursday, Oct. 20.
Ana Peralta, a senior international business and marketing major, said she would participate in the Coming Out March that begins at the Liberty Bell and ends in front of the Immigration Court on Market Street.
“I hope that the rally brings awareness not only to politicians, but to the undocumented community so that they can see that other students are standing up for themselves and that others can do the same,” Peralta said.
Peralta said that, while there will be a lawyer present in the group, some students are still taking a risk by declaring their illegal status. If arrested, undocumented people can face jail time or deportation.
Peralta is also a representative for DreamActivist PA, which is comprised of undocumented youth fighting for the rights of the immigrant community and for the passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act, on both the state and federal levels.
The Pennsylvania DREAM Act, if passed, would allow undocumented youth, provided they meet many strict requirements, to pay in-state tuition rates at public institutions of higher education. A handful of other states have passed similar legislation.
Caroline Ezzo, president of Temple for a DREAM, said this topic “is right on the precipice of being a big issue in America.”
“As big as it is now it’s going to blow up in the next decade,” Ezzo said. “We all have our own opinions about what kind of immigration reform needs to happen, but it’s sort of undeniable that there are undocumented immigrants in this country and it is not a viable option to deport everybody.”
“I think a lot of people don’t understand the situation that [immigrants] are coming from,” added Allegra Guinan, a freshman fine arts major and Temple for a DREAM member.
Even though the U.S. is currently in an economic downturn, for many immigrants “back home has way worse living conditions, there are no jobs,” Guinan said.
Members of Temple for a DREAM explained that there are many misconceptions about undocumented people in the country.
“The term illegal alien is totally designed to vilify undocumented citizens,” said Will Otto, junior computer science major and Temple for a DREAM member.
And that’s why Ezzo said putting a face to the “illegal alien” is so important.
“Undocumented people are seen as this separate entity, when they are really entrenched in our society,” Ezzo said. “I know some who went to my high school and have been in my classes. They are a part of our lives.”
Even though Pamela Linares, 2011 alumna and founder of Temple for a DREAM, went through the process of becoming a legal citizen after getting married, she still worries for members of her family who await citizenship. Linares was only eight months old when she arrived in America.
“It is not fair that the immigration system we live in is so broken that families who have been here for 20 plus years still cannot find a way to belong,” Linares said.
She said her parents have paid taxes throughout their years in America and during her time in school.
“I hope that the fear of the ‘unknown,’ as has been a repetition in American history, will diminish,” Linares said. “We are all Americans, whether we are recognized as such or not.”
Haley Kmetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.