by Erika Andiola | October 25, 2012
It is no longer a secret that undocumented youth across the country are becoming a changing force in the 2012 elections. Some of us have mastered electoral politics, others continue telling their stories and motivating their family members and friends to go out and vote. But why would someone who doesn’t have the power and the privilege of casting a ballot in November care so much about who gets elected and who doesn’t? Well, let’s just say we have a promise to keep.
December, 2010 was a month we will never forget. The lame duck session was our last hope and as naïve as some advocates thought we were, we thought we could get the last votes for the DREAM Act if we just tried hard enough. We would prepare daily lobbying days in Washington D.C., where we would stand in the Senate elevators all day, just to see if we could have the chance to tell our story and change the mind of at least one more senator. We would look at pictures and memorize their faces so we could know exactly who they were if we ran across them. We would hold pray-ins, sit-ins, marches and would even confront some of the harshest anti-immigrant congressmen.
This was not only happening in D.C. In Texas, a group of youth had started a hunger strike. In other states, “Military Dreamers” started to come out and pledging to serve this country if the DREAM Act was passed. Vigils and more civil disobedience actions were being organized. It was obvious that the desire to keep pushing for this piece of legislation was bigger than exhaustion; bigger than not seeing our family or having a way to make a living as we gave our all to the movement.
One night, as we prepared for the next day of actions, we received the news we were waiting for. The DREAM Act was going to come up for a vote in the House of Representatives and many thought it had a good chance of passing. We only had a couple of hours to organize as many DREAMers as possible to fill up the chamber and give it a last push.
I sat in chamber, and looked around. Some congressmen who supported us were constantly looking at us, smiling and giving us thumps up. Others would not even dare to look. There we were dozens of young people with DREAM Act t-shirts, wearing paper made graduation caps, watching them closely as they chatted among each other.
But there was one person I was focusing on, in front of me was my Congressman Jeff Flake. I turned to my side and whispered to my fellow Dreamer “That’s my representative. He is a Republican, but I saw him at a gathering on the day of the elections and he told me he was going to vote yes. I really hope he does!”
It was not too long before I looked up and realized that he was already listed on the board as a no vote. I can’t even explain the anger and disappointment I felt at that moment. Same political games, I thought, but at least we were able to pass the house.
The Senate was next. More days of no sleep and $2 in my pocket, but the win in the house gave me so much hope that I decided to stay in D.C. until the end. We quickly started calling as many states as possible to recruit enough Dreamers to fill up the Senate chamber. Soon enough we brought around 300 undocumented youth from across the country to witness one of the most important decisions this body of government was ever going to make about our lives.
We sat there again, quietly, listening to the speeches, the lies, the stories, and the political games. Senator Durbin and Senator Reid spoke about more DREAMer stories. Senator Sessions spoke about the nightmare we would be for the county. History was being repeated right in front of us. We all held hands. We could feel each other pulses rising, as the last count was being announced. Some of us prayed, others cried, many knew what was coming.
Since then, the entire immigrant youth movement promised we were never going to forget those who decided to break a promise. There were politicians who never supported us and were clear about it, but there were others, LIKE JEFF FLAKE, who dared to look at us in the eye and told us they cared about our issue when in fact they did not.
These elections have become personal to us. Through our hard work, our stories and our courage we have been able to speak and empower our community, and through that same voice we will let them know who those who killed our DREAM in 2010 were.