Voices of ‘Dreamers’ echo through downtown Cleveland

Lynn Tramonte, the deputy director of America’s Voice, wipes a tear while a “Dreamer” tells her story at the candlelight vigil.

Austin Mariasy

Under a pool of umbrellas, roughly 100 people stood in the rain to listen to the impassioned stories of “Dreamers” in downtown Cleveland Thursday.

A group of local and national organizations hosted a candlelight vigil in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“I have to fight because they can’t,” said Deb Kline, director of Cleveland Jobs with Justice. “Their voices to an elected official isn’t as strong as mine because I am a voter.”

DACA is an executive order signed by former President Barack Obama protecting children, or Dreamers, who are brought to the U.S. under a two-year work visa. 

On Sept. 5, the Trump administration announced the DACA program will end in six months unless Congress turns it into law.

Dreamers currently in the U.S. can renew their work permits until Oct. 5 and stay for another two years, but the Department of Homeland Security announced its no longer taking new applications. 

During the vigil in Highland Park, multiple Dreamers shared their stories; one of them was Nancy Rojas, who was resided in the U.S.

“Being a Dreamer means to have hope. To have dreams. To know there is a sparkle,” Rojas said.  “As tiny as it may be, there is a sparkle of hope.”

During her speech, Rojas took supporters back to her senior year of high school when her friends were applying to college and thinking about their futures.

“I remember asking asking my mom why I can’t go to college,” she said.

Her mother responded, without legal documents, like a social security card, Rojas could not apply to colleges or for financial aid.

Rojas said she will continue to fight and be vocal even if the DACA program were to be shut down and Dreamers’ legal protections are taken away.

“DACA is my future,” Rojas said. “Until the end, I’m just gonna keep fighting for what I want and for my dreams. No matter where I’m at, I’m just gonna keep fighting.”

Another Dreamer, who wished to remain anonymous, also shared her story of coming to the U.S. as a 1-year-old, and is now 18.

“If I’m not willing to fight for myself, I can’t expect my neighbor to do it,” she said. “I could go back into the shadows. I could be scared, but I won’t.”

The Rev. Joe Cherry with the Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland embraces the idea of immigration, and understands the value immigrants bring to this country.

“I know that we are a land built by people who landed on our shores,” he said. “Either by choice or not, long ago or not, every one of our families comes from somewhere else.”

Austin Mariasy is the photo director. Contact him at [email protected].