Originally posted on the AILA Leadership Blog
This is a difficult moment for the DREAMers. The Senate has failed them, and the nation. Make no mistake, the DREAM Act will become law one day. And, so too, will there be a humane and sensible immigration policy. What we need are national leaders who care more about America than their political careers.
I have had the honor of representing Bernard Pastor, an 18 year old DREAMer from Reading, Ohio who was locked up by ICE for a month and released on Friday, December 17, hours before the Senate rejected the Dream Act. Describing the disarray left in the wake of the Senate vote yesterday, the New York Times’ Julia Preston juxtaposed Bernard’s last minute release against ICE’s ongoing policy of mass deportations.
The administration’s efforts to manage its policy dilemma played out this week. Speaking on Friday before the vote, John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency would continue the brisk pace of deportations, focusing on immigrants convicted of crimes. On the same day, the agency released from detention an 18-year-old Guatemalan student from Ohio, Bernard Pastor, granting him a one-year reprieve from deportation to continue his education.
Can you imagine where Bernard would be right now if he hadn’t been freed on Friday?
Yet, in the midst of our disappointment with the lack of a coherent, sensible immigration policy, coupled with the pain suffered by the thousands of DREAMers whose hopes were dashed yesterday, we can take solace in the words of Bernard Pastor, who, in a letter reminiscent of Dr. Martin Luther King’s heroic Letter From Birmingham Jail, wrote the following while incarcerated by ICE and awaiting his imminent removal to Guatemala, a country he does not know:
I am not defined by where I was born; I am defined by where and with whom I was raised. I am defined by how I live my life.
People might be surprised that the son of a pastor is in the situation in which I now find myself, but I think that it takes just such a person to make a necessary difference, to make things change. Perhaps it seems to you that I am caught in a bad situation, but the Bible tells me this:
“In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider." Ecclesiastes 7:14
In my own words: a day of sorrow is better than a day of joy because through pain the heart is mended; it is through my difficulties that I learn. I have always known that each of us is here to be a history maker. This is true regardless of one’s station in life. All I can hope is that I serve as an example for others to understand the great injustices carved into the fabric of our broken immigration system. I pray that my example helps pass the DREAM Act because it is the DREAM Act that will help others who find themselves in my shoes.
I feel that this is the purpose that God has for me, and I will never fight his will. And I want to be able to be the one who steps up, the one who can be the voice for those other thousands of DREAMers who cannot speak out for themselves.
Sometimes, one needs difficult times to reestablish one’s faith, even the faith that one might believe they already had. In the words of Jon Foreman – a committed evangelical Christian and the lead singer of Switchfoot – “Two things You have told me: You are strong and You love me… So why should I worry? You know what I need.” I know that this is all God’s plan and all the glory is his alone. I thank God for letting me be His conduit, the vessel through which he may be exalted.
I thank all of you who are working to help both me, and others like me; you know the Truth behind my situation. I leave you now with a quote from the Christian musician, Brandon Heath:
“There is hope for me yet because God won’t forget all the plans he’s made for me. He’s not finished with me yet.”
God bless you all,