On December 10, the California Central Valley Journey for Justice hosted an event to celebrate the 62nd Anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNUDHR). The event was held in Merced and was titled “Right to Education” to recognize Article 26 of the UNUDHR, which states that: everyone has the right to education. Reflecting on Article 26, the focus of the event was on the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act). The latest version of the DREAM Act would permit certain individuals who have grown up in the United States to apply for conditional nonimmigrant status and to eventually obtain permanent status and become eligible for U.S. citizenship if they go to college or serve in the U.S. military for a minimum of two years.
The event included guest speaker Dr. Lee Andersen, superintendent of the Merced County Office of Education, who presented information about the DREAM Act and wrote a letter of support for the 2009 version of the DREAM Act to Congressman Dennis Cardoza. The event also included testimonials from students and members of the community who have been affected by the act’s non-passage. “Jacinto” (not his real name), a student who has faced many barriers to completing his higher education because of high cost and the lack of his qualifying for any financial aid, had his letter read. In his letter, he quotes: “For some time, my mom and I made and sold tamales to help pay for my tuition. One time, I even exchanged tamales for a textbook that I needed.” Dina, a citizen of Merced, shared her experiences of the challenges she has faced in completing her higher education as well and shared words of encouragement for those who like her, have difficulty accessing higher education because of her immigrant status and the long road it takes to become a citizen. She was brought to the United States at age 11 when her family was fleeing the violence occurring in El Salvador. She also discussed how she came to here from El Salvador to escape violence and war.
The event was attended by high school and college students, educators and other members of the community. Translation was provided for those who needed interpretation in Spanish, and the event included theater from Teatro Los Hijos de Campo, a group from CSU Stanislaus that performs skits on cultural, political and social issues. Multimedia video was also used to share information about the DREAM Act and to educate those who were unfamiliar with the law.
The latest version of the DREAM Act was passed in the House of Representatives on the night of December 8, by a bipartisan Congress by a vote of 216-198. Unfortunately, the Senate has failed to pass the DREAM Act.
Whether or not the DREAM Act passes, with the hope that it does, steps need to be taken. The battle is far from over, and people need to participate in a movement that ensures that everyone has the right to education. High school and college students were fired up and voiced their plan at this event to involve others and take action.