by Viridiana

The future of 51,000 lay at the mercy of a senator—a senator who has been unwilling to co-sponsor a piece of legislation, known as the DREAM Act: the only existing legislation that would establish a non-existent (yet necessary) pathway toward legalization for these 51,000 in our state, 2.1 million in our country. Yes, our state and our country because we are American.

            Photo by J.Valas

Behind this political terminology and this number are stories. They are stories that for years were stories of hopelessness, of desperation and confusion. But this is no longer the case. There is a hunger for freedom from these invisible chains that have kept us oppressed for years. And it is manifesting itself in a growing movement.

Of these 51,000 in North Carolina, three young women, armed with valor and determination challenged the status quo. We embarked on a thirteen day hunger strike. Our mission was to give a face to the “illegal alien” and to give our DREAMs a voice.

   Hunger Strike for our DREAMs - June 14, 2021 to June 27, 2021

But more compelling than refusing to eat a single bite was (and is) our unyielding persistence to speak out. We declared ourselves Undocumented and Unafraid. As we starved for our dreams at the corner of Wilmington and Lane, many questioned our intentions and determination. I challenge them to walk a mile in our shoes. From that day forth, the ability to go without nourishment for 13 days and the fuel for our tireless efforts came from that number: 51,000.

Last Saturday night, 51,000 were challenged. Current and former undocumented students from all over North Carolina stood before a crowd in the middle of downtown Greensboro, Guilford County: one of eight North Carolina counties with an adopted 287(g) program.

            Photo by Justin Valas

They expressed feelings of fear and shame, conflict and strength. And over fifty assembled and passers-by witnessed and listened closely as young undocumented people told their stories. They listened to stories of academic accomplishments, leadership and initiative within church youth groups, school, and community organizations. Yet, more captivating were the parts where DREAMers expressed their desire to serve. And their willingness to persevere until we are given that opportunity, by law.

  Photo by J. Valas

We, the undocumented youth of North Carolina, say no more. No more to walking with our heads down because we cannot see a brighter future. We will fight for it! No more to feeling ashamed of who we are, our names, and our lives. We are Undocumented and Unashamed! No more will we feel forced to ask why we should “pay for the sins of our fathers”. If corporations can cross borders for cheap labor, so should people seeking a better life!  

51,000 have been challenged. Now I put the challenge to Senator Hagan- will you champion legislation that will ensure a solid educational foundation and create a more educated workforce for the benefit of all North Carolinians? Or will you instead remain lock-step with the status quo, acknowledging our contributions as ”illegal taxpayers” but refusing to co-sponsor the DREAM Act? It is time for leadership, senator. It is time to live up to our state’s motto - To be, rather than to seem.

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