Immigrant students march to D.C. to push for new legislation
MIAMI - While their fellow college students recovered from the night’s revelry, four South Floridians celebrated the New Year with a more active - and activist - approach.
The group set out yesterday to begin a 1,500-mile journey they are calling the “Trail of Dreams,’’ from Miami’s historic Freedom Tower to Washington, D.C. The goal is to raise support for legislation that would include a path to citizenship for eligible illegal immigrants.
The four, all immigrants themselves, plan to walk the entire distance. They plan to arrive in the capital May 1, which has become a day of immigrant rights rallies in recent years.
All are top students at local colleges and campus leaders. Some are now here legally, some are not. All say they are willing to take the risks that come with bringing attention to the plight of students who, like themselves, were brought to the United States as children and are now here illegally.
“I’m tired of coming back to school each semester and hearing about another friend who was picked up and deported,’’ Juan Rodriguez told a group of supporters during a recent gathering.
Rodriguez, president of the student government at Miami Dade College’s InterAmerican Campus, and the others say they were inspired by the migrant farm workers who walked the length of California in the 1970s, and by the civil rights marches of the 1960s.
Rodriguez and the others want comprehensive immigration reform, meaning a path to citizenship for qualified immigrants here illegally as well as improvements in border security that respect immigrant communities. They are also calling on President Obama to halt the routine detention and deportation of illegal immigrants who have children and spouses who are US citizens. And they want him to halt the deportation of youths brought to the United States as children, who are now here illegally but want to attend college or enter the military in exchange for the chance of a green card through a so-called “Dream Act.’’
Rodriguez said his life turned around when he started volunteering on behalf of several students facing deportation. He took three-hour bus rides from South Miami to downtown to help pass out flyers and organize rallies in hopes that one day someone would aid him.