While demonstrations for passing the Dream Act have, on many campuses, attracted large numbers of supporters protests in South Texas have been relatively small. The University of Texas Pan American, according to activists, has over 600 students who are undocumented yet protests at the University have only attracted a handful of students and faculty. In fact, community members have harassed supporters of the Dream Act. The reasons for the lack of protests, I think, do not represent indifference to passage of the Dream Act. Yet it is difficult to pinpoint the reasons for the lack of open and public support of the dream act. Do harassment and death threats play a role? Consider the following story printed on the Channel 4 website.
Regardless of numerous threats and assaults, a student at UTPA continues to push the controversial Dream Act so that he and 601 other fellow students at UTPA can be on the path to citizenship.
Jose Alejandro Garrido has been very outspoken about the Dream Act, and his participation in rallies have gotten him in trouble.
“He just punched me…right there,” said Garrido. “He approached me and he said, ‘hey, are you one of those advocates for those illegals?’”
Garrido said he was shopping at Wal-Mart when he was asked this question, and when he said yes, he was punched.
“I knew I should know better as long as somebody uses the word illegals, they are racist because no human being is illegal,” said Garrido.
He said he’s also gotten numerous threatening calls and emails, but regardless, he continues to fight for the Dream Act because he himself is a dreamer.
“I use to live under so much fear in the past and now i realize it’s not my fault, said Garrido. “It wasn’t my fault to come here. My parents brought me here.”
Garrido came to the United States from Veracruz when he was 13 years old, and this Saturday, he’ll be graduating from UTPA.
His goal is to continue on to law school and become a civil rights attorney, but if the Dream Act doesn’t pass, his future is uncertain.
“I pretty much live in a legal limbo because of the actions of my parents,” said Garrido.
Its stories like this that moved Brian Silva to help start the Coalition for Educational Opportunity.
He along with Garrido and several other students started the organization to push for the Dream Act by hosting rallies and a hunger strike.
At one of their rallies here at the Chapel Lawn, the student activists released 602 balloons symbolizing those dreamers that are here at UTPA.
Silva said he fights for the 602 UTPA undocumented immigrant students, or “dreamers” as some call them, because they have a lot to offer society.
“(They have) this enormous capacity to contribute to American society, but they can’t do anything more because they can’t practice their degrees,” said Silva.
Garrido and Silva said they hope the Senate has been moved by the dreamers’ stories and will approve the dream act.