Juan Rodriguez , one of the four Miami Dade College students who, calling themselves the “Trail of DREAMs,” walked from Miami, FL to Washington, DC to call for a stop to the deportation of students and the separation of families, was invited to a meeting with President Obama and other immigration reform advocates, which happened earlier this afternoon.
It marks the second time that the President has met with a youth advocate of the DREAM Act and other vital immigration reforms since he took office. Carlos Saavedra, the national coordinator for United We DREAM, met with President Obama before the March for America rally along with other immigrant rights advocates.
We spoke with Juan before the meeting, and recorded a brief video interview about how he felt about the meeting, and what he planned to say to the President:
The Trail of DREAMs have met with White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, but have been asking for a meeting with the President since they began their 1,500 mile journey to Washington, DC on January 1st. “The invitation of a youth activist to this meeting is a sign of an increasing willingness in making sure that he DREAM Act gets done by the end of the 111th congress,” said Campus Progress Senior Advocacy Associate Pedro de la Torre III, “as well as tribute to the powerful and courageous efforts of the youth immigrant rights movement.” In recent months, young people advocating for the DREAM Act have engaged in lobbying, hunger strikes, other actions similar to the Trail of DREAMs, rallies, and sit-ins to draw attention to their cause. The DREAM Act would create a path to citizenship for students that were brought the US as children, stay out of trouble, and who complete either two years of college or military service.
When Juan was six years old, his family came to the United States from Columbia on a tourist visa to avoid the violence that was then plaguing the country. He was top student who dreamed of becoming an aerospace engineer, but his status as an undocumented student meant that he would face major barriers to accessing a college education, finding work, and more. Luckily, his step-mother was able to assist him in the process of becoming a US resident last year. Because of his experiences, he now hopes to pursue an advanced degree in sociology.
Because he is the only member of the Trail of DREAMs that is no longer undocumented, Juan was the only member of the group invited to the meeting. He expressed disappointment that the President was not willing to invite the other three “DREAM walkers,” as they came to be called, even though they too walked 1,500 miles to bring him a message.
Students Working for Equal Rights, which created the Trail of DREAMs, received an Organizing Grant from Campus Progress as part of the Action Alliance program. The program awards $200-$1,500 to youth-led organizations that are working on progressive issue campaigns or projects that will help build the progressive youth movement. You can learn more about the DREAM Act and take action.