I went to see the play Deferred Action this past weekend, a wonderful production about the trials and tribulations of the DACA movement, and the real lives it touches.
I hope the play catches on and begins to make its rounds in other cities: it is defnitely worth seeing.
|Erik during the 2011 "I am a DREAM Voter" Campaign|
In any case, this play depicts the ongoing conflict brought on by the onslaught of deportation, and how DACA and the DREAM Act are trying to counter deportation's horrible effects. Millions of young people who were brought to the United States as children are now finding themselves in limbo, or their parents are in the crosshairs. Although the US government wants to deny these young people the only home they have ever known — the United States — they cannot call their home country their own either, because in most cases, they do not even remember it.
When the playwright wrote the script, he interviewed members of NTDT, the North Texas Dream Team: Erik is a proud member. While this play is a very real reminder, then, of the actual lives being spent day in and day out all across America in the living rooms of many Latino households, I have decided to introduce you today to a wonderful young writer, a DREAMer and a dreamer, a young graduate who is actually making his dreams become a reality today.
You might not be able to see the play just yet (though you should demand that it come to a city near you!), but you can at least read a DREAMer's testimony now.
So, I leave you now with Erik's words...
Undocumented means you do not exist. You walked for sixteen years in and out of classrooms; you do not exist. You submitted your lab reports; you do not exist. You raised the college-going trajectories of underserved high school students; you do not exist. You got accepted to earn your degree in Mechanical Engineering at Southern Methodist University; you do not exist.
|Erik Burgos thanks the DREAM Guardians at city hall while Marco Malagón looks on|
Growing up, you all seek for a feeling of security and belonging. If you are here as an undocumented student, however, not even your parents can protect you. You find yourself in a bizarre position. You develop and grow into the image of your surroundings to only then feel unwelcome by the same society that molded you. At times, you might feel like a product item on an assembly line. So many hard-working minds and hands went into making you what you are, to only then be discarded. If you were to be shipped off, the sender would receive you back with a label, "Return to Sender: Address Unknown."
|Young Erik with Uncle Saul in 1995|
You do not know any other world than the one you grew up in all your life! Alternatively, you are left sitting on a dark shelf. There is never a return on investment on the time and resources poured into you by teachers, mentors and professionals: you do not exist.
As an undocumented student, you most likely at one point questioned the mere possibility of college. Not because you do not think you are intelligent enough and can make the grades, but because by your junior year in high school you begin to realize that your financial aid options are slim, or even worse, you are not made aware of any resources that can help you: you do not exist.
My name is Erik Frank Burgos-Soto; I exist.
I was born in Durango, Mexico, and I was brought to the United States at the age of two. My parents were a huge support during grade school and in the transition into college. At first, however, even my parents discouraged this notion of going to college because, after all, college is not for everyone. Nonetheless, I personally had a burning desire to break old traditions and go to college to become an engineer. My high school counselors unfortunately did not have the knowledge on how to assist me with my unique circumstances. I was involved with various student organizations but did not make it as a top ten student, which made it even more impossible, or so I thought.
I am now an alumnus of Southern Methodist University with a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering and this is but the beginning.
Erik at graduation from Southern Methodist University
Dallas, Texas, B.S. Mechanical Engineering, 2011
I now exist as part of the fabric of this American Dream through what we know as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). No longer am I on the dark shelf waiting for an opportunity to use my hard-earned degree and experience. I can serve in the spirit of excellence alongside my brothers and sisters, even if it is for only two years at a time.
It is a privilege and an honor to serve the country I call home.
I am here. I exist.