The first day I arrived in the US my family sat me down at the kitchen inner table. That day, we looked at each other and the only thing we had in our hearts was hope. Hope that someday my family’s sacrifice would be paid off and that I could attend college and pursue a professional career.
I was 14 years-old- full of acne and insecurity, but most importantly determined to make my mother proud. I didn’t quite understand the consequences of the thousands of miles I had just traveled.
I was tired and ready to sleep after spending so many hours on the plane and from all the tears I had spilled during the eight hour flight. That night, I went to sleep and was scared of what was coming. But when the sun rose the next morning I knew it was a new beginning full of possibilities.
Now I am 24 years-old and I haven’t really changed that much. I’m still managing to overcome great obstacles and traveling great distances to fight for a better life for myself and my community. I spent the last 10 days working on different campaigns from the California Bay area.
That’s when I received the saddest news I had received in years.
It took me back to that day my family sat me down at that dinner table. My eyes began to water as I heard over the phone that I wasn’t welcomed to the community I love and treasured. Juan, a fellow DREAM ACT walker, told me that a bill similar to SB1070 (the controversial Arizona law) was about to be introduced in the Florida Legislature. For a second, time stopped! I lost my breath and all I could hear was my heart beating. It was as if I was getting foreclosed on from the house I had saved a whole lifetime to buy.
I immediately remembered my first kiss, the first time I went to the beach in Miami, the thousands of community hours, the first time my teacher in middle school gave me a certificate for best student of the year, the taste of Cuban coffee in the morning with pastelito and the first time someone gave me cheesecake.
I held myself tight and said please don’t take my home from me.
Little by little I lost pieces of my own home. First they passed a statewide 287g agreement, and then several individual counties spread this policy and its traces of racial profiling throughout the state. Later Miami-Dade and a few other counties started implementing secure communities (currently the whole state implements this program).
And now they want Florida to go from Sunshine State to another “Show me your Papers State”.
But the question that lingers in my mind is whether legislators and different leaders will ever have the best interest of common folks in mind. We have done nothing but contribute to make this country a better place for all.
It’s time for President Obama to finally fulfill his promise to keep our families united by sending a cohesive message: end the 287 (g) agreements now. In Arizona and Florida, the 287g agreements were the gate door to bad policies such as SB1070 and its copycats.
If we don’t heal the wound from its cause now, how can we eliminate any discriminatory legislation? It’s time for the President to lead us into a more just country where the prospect for liberty and the pursuit of happiness is real.
Felipe ha sido calificado como uno de los mejores alumnos de colegios comunitarios en Estados Unidos. Además de sobresalir en sus estudios superiores, Felipe ayuda a sus pares como presidente de la asociación de estudiantes en el Miami Dade College. Hijo de una madre soltera en las favelas de Brasil, Felipe fue enviado a Estados Unidos a los 14 años de edad. Fue aquí donde pudo aspirar por primera vez a ser un maestro. Pero aunque tiene la inteligencia y la motivación necesarias, por culpa de su estado migratorio no ha podido cumplir su sueño. Fue admitido por varias de las mejores universidades del país, como Duke University, pero tiene prohibido recibir ayuda financiera.
Actualmente, cursa estudios de economía en el colegio comunitario, pero no pierde la esperanza de que algún día ser docente y educar a los jóvenes, porque está convencido que la educación es la clave para salir de la pobreza.
Felipe Matos se ha convertido, en pos de su participación en The Trail of Dreams, en uno de los principales proponentes nacionales de la ley Dream Act y de la reforma migratoria.