Phoenix: Please help me make my Dream a reality!

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Testimony presented by Silvia Rodriguez before Congress on June 10th, 2010 [via Harvard, Si Se Puede! Blog] :

My name is Silvia Rodriguez I will be 23 years old later this month. I was brought to Arizona from Mexico over 20 years ago, when my family came in search for a better life. We entered the country with visas, which later expired. Our family lived like every other family, my mother and father worked, my brother and sister both US citizens and I, grew up with the children around us. I learned English at a young age from a purple dinosaur, enjoyed pizza, and pool parties with friends. But our lives at home were not ideal.

When I was 13 I decided that enough was enough. The way my mother was being treated was not right.  The continual physical, emotional, and verbal abuse that my father inflicted upon my mother drove me to call the police. After this, my family was able to live in relative peace and safety for a short period of time. The strong anti-immigrant climate of hate in Arizona is worse and becoming normalized. Policies such as 287(g) and SB1070 make it impossible for families going through domestic violence to seek help. As a young woman if I currently experienced domestic violence, I by no means would call the police on someone that was threatening our lives. For fear of the well-known abuses and violation of human rights in Maricopa county jails, as well as the eminent disintegration of my family.

Things did not get better, when I wanted to get a driving permit, apply for scholarships to attend college, or register to vote.  My mom brought me to reality by telling me that our families’ visas had expired. Since my siblings are US citizens, I was the only one left out completely lacking the ‘appropriate’ documents necessary to exist in this society.

Due to my determination I was able to attend Arizona State University and graduate Cum Laude last year in 2009 with two BA’s one in Political Science and another in Transborder Chicana/o Latina/o Studies. During those four years my scholarships were taken away three times, I did not qualify for federal, state, or university financial aid. I was charged out of state tuition by the state I had grown up in. On the other hand, I received the Cesar Chavez Leadership Award in 2006 for my community service and leadership from then governor Janet Napolitano, who is now the head of Home Land Security.

The terrorizing raids from Sheriff Joe Arpaio in our community forced my family to flee the state my last year of college. We had only one week to erase the 20 years we had contributed to Phoenix.

While this left me with out a car, home, or family I now understand that it pushed me outside the bounds of my mental limits. Being that I have been accepted to start my Masters at Harvard University this fall.  Its ironic that the most prestigious university in the world has invited me in, has stated that I am welcomed, and believes that I am of value in this society, yet the state that I call home criminalized me, dehumanizes me, and makes me feel unworthy of existing let alone of an education. I ask that congress pass the Dream Act now, so that students like me can once again feel worthy and proud of the education they receive. I have done nothing wrong, I have not broken any laws, I did not have control where I was born, or what my parents did with me at the age of two. I refuse to be labeled a criminal, an illegal, or even undocumented.

As I stand with my community, with Dream Act students, and the state of Arizona, we are crying out for help. We cry out for justice. We cry out for respect, and we defend our dignity here in Washington DC, and at home. End 287(g) agreements in the country, put an end to SB1070 in Arizona, prevent similar bills in other states, and pass the Dream Act as a stand-alone bill.

Thank you.

Silvia Rodriguez

Master’s of Arts in Education Candidate
Class of 2011
Harvard University

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