By Juan D. Rangel

It was Sunday, five in the morning; we were eighteen hours away from our hometown Dade City, FL and one hour away from one of the most important cities of our country, Washington D.C. I was amazed to be so close to our nation’s capitol and never thought that one day I would be able to travel and explore Washington D.C. I knew I would be there in a few minutes visiting historic places unknown to me. But, I continue to ask myself this question: why did I go? What did I want by doing this trip?

I always wanted to help my family and improve my lifestyle by getting an education. I started school here in the United States when I was in the fifth grade. I graduated from high school with honors. I want to be a full-time college student and earn a degree in international business. I want to be an example and a role model for my brother and all of the kids in my community.

But college is nearly out of reach for me because of the cost. My parents cannot help me financially because of their low-wage jobs. Sometimes their paycheck is not enough to cover our family’s basic necessities. This is why I traveled to Washington, D.C. on March 22 to march for immigration reform.

I came to Washington D.C. to support a Human Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the “Dream Act.” I am supporting these proposals because if they become laws they will open wonderful opportunities for many like me to go to college.

Since I am an undocumented student, the new laws would help me in many ways. For example, I would be able to go to a public college which is less expensive than the private university I currently attend. Right now, I am only taking one class per semester because I do not have enough money to be a full-time student. With immigration reform, I would also be able to apply for federal grants and receive help from the state government. The amount of the federal grants would be based on my high school grades and my current grades in college.

When I arrived in Washington D.C., I was surprised to see thousands of people supporting and marching for a Human Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the Dream Act. I was also astonished that there were all types of unique organizations that support immigrants and non-immigrants in many different ways. In all, the march organizers reported over half a million immigration reformers at the capitol, telling our elected leaders that we refuse to wait any longer for Congress to give America a new immigration system.

I never imagined that there were so many organizations, representatives, and senators who support immigration reform for America. It was an exciting experience because I had the opportunity to meet bright students with different nationalities and cultures from all over the world. These students have many of the same challenges as I do when trying to further their education.

All I have ever wanted was to be able to go to college and live a better life for my family. I especially want to help undocumented students graduate from high school and then help them pursue a higher education. I am willing to commit and support our immigration reformers in whatever they need to make this dream possible.

I will never forget why I came to Washington D.C. -- “Freedom is not free.” For this reason we must always fight for our rights in order to be respected with honor and dignity. I strongly believe that education is our freedom and as president Abraham Lincoln said, “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.” Everything is possible if we work together as a team to pursue our dream of immigration reform -- “fight for our rights and liberty.”
Rangel is a part-time student and intern with FarmWorkers Self-Help, INC.
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