Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Deportation of a Young Man's Dreams

Someone from the school administration office called just before the rally. The people at Jordan High School said it was okay to meet there to support Fausto Palma-Guifarro, a recent graduate at Jordan High. The move across the street to the parking lot of the city park was not enough to chill the emotions of a troubled crowd. In two days, Fausto is set to be deported to Honduras.

“This is my home. This is the place I want to be,” the soft spoken 18 year-old told 45 supporters. “I feel like my dreams are going down. I don’t have the opportunity in my country to be what I want to be.” He wants to be a pediatrician.

His few words were enough to tell the story as young people held signs that said more than anyone could say. “Education not deportation,” a middle school male student held the sign high as an African American female honked her horn and waved her hand in support. She screamed out the window and the crowd of young people responded to her support. I couldn’t detect what the motorist said.

Others blew and waved. A tear dropped from my eye as I noticed most showing support were African American. Most in the crowd were Hispanic and white. It didn’t matter the race. “We are humans not a #!” read another sign held by a young man the same age of Fausto.

The clock is ticking on Fausto. He crossed the border into the U.S. when he was 12 years-old. “I was brought to this country escaping the violence in Honduras and reunite with my mother who I had not seen since I was 6 years old,” he wrote in a statement passed out at the rally. “I did not remember my mother’s face. I missed her love, hugs and company.”

In 2004, Fausto and his brother were stopped by immigration officials while attempting to cross into the U.S. He was given an order to appear in court, but did not go after his mother received legal counsel informing him not to show up.

On June 8, the day before his graduation from Jordan High, authorities came to his house and arrested him. “We need John Morton to deprioritize Fausto so that way it will give us the opportunity maybe in three to six months to keep him in this country,” Steve Monk, Fausto’s attorney says. “He had no control in coming here. He has lived the good life and wanted to improve himself.”

Fausto’s mother, Veronica Guifarro, moved to Durham in 1998 after a tornado in Honduras. She does cleaning work in Pittsboro. She has Temporary Protected Status due to the conditions in Honduras. Fausto’s is the youngest of three children. Angel Jose Lobo, the oldest son, 27, was deported last month.

Fausto is among thousands in the U.S. who qualify for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Act (DREAM Act) which allows undocumented students to come out of hiding, pursue and obtain higher education and become American citizens. To qualify the student must have entered the country at the age of 15 or younger, graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED, not have a criminal record and lived at least five years of continuous presence in the U.S.

The DREAM Act failed in the Senate in December. North Carolina Senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr voted against the legislation. “We need to be communicating with our legislators about the importance of immigration reform that will protect especially vulnerable kids like Fausto who have such a promising future.” says Spencer Bradford, executive director of Durham Congregations in Action.

Bradford says this is a moral action that requires the attention of people of faith. “3000 years ago Hebrew prophets beginning with Moses began talking about being hospitable to strangers in the land,” he says. “God expects us to be as hospitable to strangers in our land as God is hospitable toward us as we come into his house.”

The T-shirt worn by Fausto told the message that Hagan, Burr and other critics of the DREAM Act can’t hear. “Don’t deport my dreams.”

If we are to be a nation that upholds the right for all children to achieve the best within them, how can we do that when a young person like Fausto is sent back to a land where dreams wither like a raisin in the sun?

The move across the street was a fitting illustration to how we handle problems in this country. When faced with conflict, just move it. Move it off school property, or deport it to a far away land.

The clock is ticking. Please don’t destroy Fausto’s dream. He belongs to us. If you don’t believe me, take time to listen to the people honking horns and waving out the window.

We love you Fausto. This is your home, and we are your family.

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