This is the experience of Sagar Patagundi in DC as part of the 11 Million Dreams campaign.
May 13--- This past week, United We Dream (UWD), the largest network of immigrant youth in the country, gave me the opportunity to come to Washington D.C. to visit Members of Congress, witness the Senate Judiciary Committee marking up the immigration bill, and share my story. My two brothers and I, along with eight others undocumented youth, shared our stories and urged politicians to support the “Right to Reunite” Waiver, to ensure family members who’ve been deported can return under immigration reform. All eleven of us have been separated from one or both of our parents by our broken immigration system. Some of us haven’t seen our moms in two years or more. As for me and my brothers, we haven’t seen our father for over 7 years, and our mother for about two years.
All eleven of us came to Washington, D.C. because it was the week of Mother’s Day and we wanted to tell our senators that we’ve been separated from our mothers far too long and can’t wait another year to be with our mothers for Mother’s Day. Under the proposed immigration bill, individuals who hold a green card or have citizenship are the only ones able to petition for family members to come back to U.S. if they’ve been deported. My brothers and I would not be able to petition for our parents for another 5 years, when we get our green cards. We’ve already gone 7 years without seeing our father, and 2 years without seeing our mother. How much longer do we have to wait to see them? We can’t wait another 5 years… think of all the milestones they’ll miss. They’ve already missed our high school graduation; they missed our first day of college move in. We can’t have them miss our college graduation as well.
As part of our trip to Washington, D.C., we had a meeting with Senator Schumer. Unfortunately, he did not invite us into his office to sit and talk but only gave us a few minutes in the hallway. He explained that since there hasn’t been an immigration bill on the table in over a decade he would say “yes” to any bill brought up for a vote. While we know that Senator Schumer is a leader on immigration reform, we wanted to make sure he wouldn’t compromise on family reunification. But as we tried to share our stories of family separation, he interrupted us, talked over us, and ran back into the room.
Our next target was Senator Marco Rubio, who was confronted by a group of DREAMers’ Moms from Florida. He was sweating bullets as the moms challenged him not to compromise on family unity or to walk away from the negotiations. Then we, the group of 11 DREAMers, confronted him with our stories. He got frustrated and told us, “Why are you coming after me? If it wasn’t for me the immigration bill would not have been brought up. Go convince the other 18 members who are not willing to cooperate with us.”
From advocating for immigration reform with a path to citizenship and family reunification, chasing down Senators, and sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee markup of the immigration bill, it was an honor to be in Washington, D.C. with United We Dream and meet so many wonderful people. On the first day, as I was returning to the hotel, I got the feeling that I had spent almost a week with everyone there, even though it had only been half a day. Being in the movement for immigrant justice connects us and hearing each other’s stories bonds us more quickly than anyone can imagine. You can feel their pain as they feel our pain. Our struggle is so real and brings everyone so close to each other.
Hopefully with this immigration bill, not only will the eleven of us be reunited with our families, but none of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. will live with the fear of being separated from their family. We need a permanent solution, not a piecemeal approach and it’s time for our Members of Congress to lead and make immigration reform a reality.
- Sagar Patagundi