The State Press caught up with exploratory sophomore Maria Castro, a member of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, who left with 40 others for Washington Sunday in an effort to have a direct dialogue with Speaker of the House John Boehner about comprehensive immigration reform.
State Press: What is the Arizona Dream Act Coalition trying to accomplish with this trip to Washington?
Castro: There’s ADAC members here, but there are also different organizations that came together. We decided that we were tired of politicians playing political football with our lives, you know? They think this is about politics, but in reality, everything they do and say or don’t do is affecting our lives directly. It’s about our families. We were so tired of the stigma and the status quo of inaction that we decided to bring our stories from Arizona to our nation’s capital and to Speaker Boehner so that we could motivate him to put up a vote for immigration reform.
SP: When did the group decide that it was necessary to take it all the way to Boehner’s office?
C: After the August escalation, we thought Congress had been inactive. It took us a while to come to realize that, you know, our stories are the ones that matter. Not the statistics, not anything else. We started this meeting casually, and then started organizing meetings and about two weeks ago we made the decision. We said, “You know what? Let’s forget about all the politics and support our families and our community. Let’s take it to D.C.”
SP: Senate Bill 744 as H.R. 15 is in the House right now. Do you think it will pass?
C: I think that immigration reform, regardless if it’s H.R. 15 or another form of immigration reform, will pass this year. Many people say immigration reform is dead, but it’s not dead, because the need for our community is not dead. Our community will continue to push for immigration reform in whatever shape or form it comes that best highlights our community’s needs and wants.
SP: What does an adequate comprehensive immigration reform look like?
C: A strong DREAM title that has no age cap that is open for DREAMers to pursue higher education and serve in our military. To have the pathway to citizenship that does not exclude our entire community and to not have border militarization. We don’t want to terrorize our communities. We want to make sure that our current communities are not criminalized, because our community members are not criminals. They are hard-working individuals.
SP: Does the reform, as it is proposed now, benefit DREAMers?
C: I would say partially, because it benefits them as individuals, but not in their families. DREAMers care very, very deeply about their families. DREAMers won’t be satisfied until not just themselves are taken care of, but also their families.
SP: Has the group already been to Boehner’s office?
C: Yes, we will be here at Boehner’s office all day and for the rest of this week.
SP: Has there been a response?
C: Actually, Boehner’s office closed the door, and they had security everywhere, so we’ve had to sit outside in prayer hoping to soften the tone with them, and also trying to engage in conversation with them because we feel that if he hears our stories firsthand, he will see the true need for immigration reform.
SP: What else should people know about this trip to Washington?
C: We are here as community members of faith and through our faith we are searching to engage in conversation with Boehner in order for him to make the right decision, because he is a man of God. And if he is a man of God, then he will make the right decision and put immigration reform up for vote.
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