This piece originally appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat (October 19, 2017).
Last week, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to petition my representatives to support the DREAM Act. This bipartisan bill would be a legislative solution that would allow Dreamers, young people who came to this country as children and have lived in the country for at least a decade, the chance to earn citizenship.
I joined over 150 Dreamers from across the country on Capitol Hill to remind our representatives that time is ticking for 800,000 aspiring Americans. I am one of those Americans.
In 2000, my family and I moved to the U.S. from Colombia when I was 4 years old after my mom, the mayor of her town, was targeted by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. After this terrorist organization shot her bodyguard, my parents knew our lives were in danger and we sought an escape.
My dad was soon hired as a veterinarian for a dairy farm in central Florida and promised sponsorship for citizenship through his employer. My parents seized this opportunity and we left to a land where we would be safe and could re-establish our lives.
Unfortunately, that sense of security was short-lived. Not even a year into our new life, we found out the employer had sold the farm and disappeared. After finally tracking him down, my parents were confronted with the heartbreaking news that he had never filed a single immigration document in our case, and we had fallen out of legal status after unknowingly overstaying our visas.
Despite our status, we lived productive and admirable lives. My parents have always worked two or three jobs, paying taxes and providing for our family, while my siblings and I worked twice as hard as our peers to achieve good grades in school. My long hours studying, and their long days at work to pay for my tuition, paid off when I graduated cum laude from Florida State University with a B.S. in International Affairs in May.
Telling my story is never easy. Each time, I am thrown back into the darkest period of my life; the fear, uncertainty, and sense of hopelessness prevail again. Our lives are at stake. The anxiety that comes with having no control over our futures can be too much to handle, yet we wake up every morning and contribute to our communities as teachers, engineers, doctors and students.
In a matter of months, these individuals will systematically fall out of legal status and be put under threat of immediate deportation, unless Congress acts. Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle must come together and pass a bipartisan Dream Act.
I humbly ask you to please pick up the phone, call Congressman Neal Dunn, and Sens. Rubio and Nelson, and ask that they cosponsor the bipartisan Dream Act. It’s simply the right thing to do.
Maria Rodriguez graduated from the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy at FSU in May 2017. She is working full time and saving to go to law school next year.
Feature image is from Bloomberg.com.