While many college students slept off their New Year's festivities, Gaby Pacheco, Juan Rodriguez, Felipe Matos, and Carlos Roa began the decade on a more agile note. These four protesters, former students of Miami Dade University, began a 1500-mile march on Jan. 1. The march, titled "The Trail of Dreams," will run from Miami, FL to Washington, DC to raise awareness of the broken immigration system and the urgency of reform.
With the exception of Juan Rodriguez, who became a legal resident in 2008 after thirteen years in the country, these individuals are risking detention as they draw attention to their undocumented status. The activists, who will be joined by supporters for varying legs of their journey, plan to walk 16 miles each day, sleeping in churches and immigration centers until their projected May 1 arrival in the capital for a massive immigrant rights mobilization. The perambulating protesters are aiming to recruit 100,000 participants in a rally for the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrant high school graduates who want to pursue higher education or military service.
The timing of this multi-state march is crucial as Congress gears up for a contentious debate on immigration. Last month, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced his CIR ASAP bill to the House, which includes the DREAM Act and establishes a path to citizenship for immigrants who show that they have been employed, pay a $500 fine, learn English, and undergo a criminal background check. Following Rep. Gutierrez, whose bill has attracted 92 Democratic co-sponsors, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is expected to introduce a bipartisan bill sometime in February.
With the midterm elections looming on Congressional calendars, candidates for reelection are increasingly wary of the divisiveness sparked by the immigration debate. The Democratic party, which currently holds a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, is especially eager to address this issue before election campaigns are in full swing.
With each step these intrepid immigration activists take toward the capital, the time for reform draws nearer. To follow Gaby, Juan, Felipe, and Carlos on their journey, visit the Trail of Dreams Web site or contact the organizers at TrailofDREAMs2010@gmail.com.
I'll be on the National Mall on May 1 to greet them -- will you?
Juliana Schnur is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reformed Judaism. She is a graduate of New York University.