Contributed by guest blogger Diana Pliego-Padillo
I am a founding member of Young Immigrants in Action (YIA), a statewide grassroots organization here in South Carolina. Recently, with the help of SC Appleseed and the Sisters of Charity Foundation, we were able to create a calendar, “Hold onto Your Dreams.” Our calendar tells our story. Featuring several SC Dreamers and their personal stories, it depicts the difficult reality of obtaining a higher education in South Carolina as an undocumented immigrant. It tells of our struggle, but it also tells of our dreams. It shares with the world how we haven’t yet given up. We are still fighting for Tuition Equity and greater, more equal access to higher education in South Carolina.
We are part of a greater fight for equality across the nation, and on January 30th, I had the opportunity to go to Charleston, SC to hear Congressman Luis Gutierrez speak on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA): two programs that have the power to dramatically improve the lives of millions of immigrants across the nation. Ten of members of YIA from different cities across the Upstate and Midlands met in Columbia and took a mini-road trip to the still cold, yet sunny Charleston. We went with high hopes of meeting one of the greatest advocates for the immigrant community.
Luis Gutierrez has served in the U. S. House of Representatives for 23 years representing the Fourth District of Illinois and he spoke of the future of our community here in America. He spoke of hope, determination, and perseverance. His speech served as a reminder of the importance of coming together as one. One of our YIA members bravely made his way to front of the stage and stretched his hand out toward the Congressman holding a copy of our calendar, a copy of our stories. Mr. Gutierrez took it. Success! We let a national leader know that something is happening in South Carolina. We are speaking up and letting our voices be heard, just as he has been a voice for the immigrant community as a Representative.