What United We Dream Founder Julieta Garibay Will be Watching for During the State of the Union
DREAMer Julieta Garibay, a leader in the immigrant youth movement and a founding board member of United We Dream (UWD)—was invited to attend Tuesday's State of the Union address as the guest of Rep. Marc Veasey, who represents Texas’s 33rd Congressional District.
Campus Progress spoke with Garibay, who is currently UWD’s DREAM educational empowerment program coordinator. She promotes higher education for immigrant youth and assists DREAM-eligible youth applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Garibay, however, is not eligible for DACA because of age requirements, but she and the UWD network have been vocal advocates for immigrant youth and for comprehensive immigration reform that would put the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the US, regardless of age, on the road to citizenship.
What are you hoping to hear tomorrow during the [State of the Union] address as it pertains to immigration reform?
The Congressman [Veasey] invited me to the State of the Union, we had known each other for some time. In regards as to what we expect with Obama, has come out … his speech in Nevada where he strongly said this is immigration reform, this is what we want, these are our principles. And so we hope he continues to reiterate that he’s committed to this or we’re looking more to forward to after the State of the Union and the action that he’ll take.
In general, what’s your idea of what’s a reasonably fair road map to citizenship for the 11 million people who are living in the United States, but are undocumented?
We want to see the process. ... We want for the process to take seven years or less—It would be two years of [Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)] status and then wait out the other five years that [is] usually the normal process right now that someone is allowed to apply for citizenship. We want it to be just, and I think the main thing is to stop the deportation of our family members. As DREAMers, we continue to hear stories of how one of our leaders are getting raided at their homes and of family members being taken away, and so we know that it doesn’t just happen to our leaders it happens throughout the country and so that’s one of our main concerns.
How does a broken immigration system, that clearly impacts immigrant families and communities, also affect the larger American community? I guess what I'm getting at is, why should Americans care?
I mean if we're talking just about the American values of family unity it’s a huge issue. We have many of our DREAMers...that have families of mixed statuses which means the one family member or a lot of them might be undocumented; it also means that some of their family members could have LPR or citizenship. For example, in my case, my mother became a citizen in 2008, my sister became a citizen this past 2012, but I’m still undocumented, and so I might be the only one undocumented in the family but the issue affects us greatly. They’re of course always worried about whether I will get deported, what if something happens. I don’t have healthcare right now so what does that mean if I ever have an accident or will I ever be able to go back to my profession and so it’s not just about us as individuals but it’s many ... that are affected. We have of course the fathers or the parents who are undocumented who have US citizen children and so many of these children, sadly because of the deportation, end up in foster care when the parents get deported. So how are we saying, “Oh yeah, we’re holding up to the values of an American family, yet we’re perfectly okay seeing so many families getting separated?”
What [can] young people can do to lend their voice or help out in getting this national conversation on CIR to spur actual action? We’re waiting on Congress, we’re waiting on a lot of things, but is there anything that young people can do?
Oh definitely, I think and that’s what DREAMers have shown a lot, really sharing their stories and it goes back to remembering anything President Obama really highlighted really clear. ...So I think really highlighting those stories and reminding people why this is an issue that does affect us not just those who have been blessed enough to be born here.
I think young people can actually start calling their congress member and start pushing for something that they want... I think really elevating the voice of either an immigrant that you might know, or a story of yourself of how you are affected by immigration is essential. I think we should start really redefining what an immigrant is and why this matters to the US.
What do you think is so special about this political climate? Do you think real reform is actually possible?
I think it’s a huge difference. I’ve been involved in this movement for eight years..and I started when saying when you were undocumented was definitely a taboo—nobody talked about it, nobody said anything. Fast forwarding to four years ago, it’s still very different. Now people are coming out and saying “I’m undocumented and I’m unafraid.” People are really highlighting why there needs to be a change.
I think the fact that President Obama, like a week after his inauguration was saying, “Hey, I want immigration reformed,” and so our principles, the fact that the House and the Senate are saying these are our principles on immigration reform is huge. This has never happened before. And mot importantly I think the DREAMers and their families have really been owning our power; we’re at the forefront pushing Congress members, we pushed Obama and I think it really shifted the history. Our DREAMers were able to get deferred action and really showed the power of sharing our stories and why it’s so essential and how we get this change. Many times people told us, “Oh no, you can’t do deferred action.” People...told us that’s not possible, the election’s coming up and it’s just not time. But DREAMers were very vigilant and didn’t take no for an answer and I think that’s why it’s changed so much.
... When Marco Rubio used to speak about undocumented immigrants he used to say that “I” word [for "illegal"], and now he’s shifted to saying these are human beings. We have also shifted how President Obama would say, “Oh yeah, I support the DREAMers, this is an issue” to now him saying, “No this is not just about a policy issue this is about human beings.” Eric Cantor voted against the DREAM [Act] and now he’s saying, “Oh I support the Dream.” And so we’re really seeing the shift in how not just elections making them change but also how the power of the DREAMers that really made them realize the people have spoken.
And of the 20 Point Plan, is there one thing that you would say is something that would be an easy first step for Obama or Congress to take?
I think definitely, specifically for our membership, is end deportation. We hope that the whole 400,000 quota-a-year stops and practices like S-Comm [the Secure Communities deportation program] and 287G [program] and e-verify are terminated. We feel that they affect our families negatively, we are definitely upholding the American value and that is something that President Obama can do, he can make sure our families stop being detained and deported and separated.
Naima Ramos-Chapman is an associate editor at Campus Progress.
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