This afternoon, Tuesday February 26th, Jose Antonio Vargas spoke at California State University Northridge as part of his Define American campaign.
To summarize rather quickly (as I’m rather tired and emotionally drained): it was thrilling.
Mr. Vargas took questions after his emotional presentation. I asked a question that has been in the back of my mind for a few years now, since I first heard about the DREAM act.
It’s a simple question, which I’ll elaborate and paraphrase on here:
What happens to all those of us who fell through the cracks? The ones who couldn’t become English fluent, the ones who got involved with drugs or gangs, the ones with records, the ones sitting in a prison cell waiting only to be released into the custody of ICE/USCIS, the ones who got pregnant at 16, the ones who got shoved out of college or high school by circumstance? What happens to all those Dreams?
How do we advocate for and plead the cases of our friends, neighbours and classmates who weren’t as fortunate as we were to have fulfilling opportunities, loving guardians and caring teachers?
Do they not deserve a chance at a fair life?
I think Mr. Vargas was surprised by the question. He used a word which I thought was poignant: “survivor guilt”. Guilt of having made it through something which has quite literally driven many of our brothers and sisters to madness, to despondency, to suicide. His answer startled me.
I don’t think he knew then how to answer or what an answer looked like. Neither do I, now, in my comfortable bed with my driver’s license and a new job. All I know is I want us all to move forward.
Todos o ningunos. All of us or none of us. It has to be this way. Anything else is a sham, is a Dream deferred.