Fifteen undocumented students in New York City completed an estimated 150-mile walk to Albany on April 17, to raise awareness and garner support for the New York Dream Act.
The undocumented hikers completed the weeklong walk and carried signs that read “Pass NY Dream Act” and “Education not Deportation.”
Karen Rojas, a former undocumented student and a graduate of Lehman College, participated in the walk to “show Governor Cuomo and the rest of the politicians that we are willing to put our lives on the line to allow students to go to college without having such a huge financial burden when their parents pay taxes.”
Undocumented students cannot apply for state or federal financial aid. The New York Dream Act, introduced in March 2011 by Senator Bill Perkins and Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, would allow them to do so. The local bill does not give eligible students the opportunity to citizenship.
“When I got to Albany, I was able to answer questions and misconceptions of people I interacted with during the walk. As they heard my story and saw who the New York Dream Act would benefit, they started to realize it is not just a random bill,” Rojas said. “Undocumented youth are tired of waiting for something to change when I have been taught in school that it is up to us to change things when it no longer works. “
Rojas was undocumented for the majority of her life until her last year at Lehman College. During her study at the college, she was able to pay in-state tuition, however, she did not have access to scholarships or TAP.
“I would have liked to see access to TAP and scholarships, the same way I saw instate tuition – as hope to be able to fulfill a dream of pursuing a college degree and making a difference in the community instead of following the same cycle of poverty,” Rojas said.
The walk has been one of a series of efforts by undocumented students and allied organizations to highlight immigration as it pertains to those who have been brought by parents to the United States at a young age.