A community center in Southern California opened in response to the increase in street violence during the 1990s is now helping young undocumented immigrants who want to regularize their status through the federal government's new Deferred Action program.
"We want the elected officials to expand programs like Deferred Action and convert them into a path toward citizenship," Stella Murga, the executive director of the Pasadena Youth Center, an organization that prepares young people for a better future through education, told Efe on Thursday.
The center has become a gathering place for hundreds of young people where they can receive information about the requirements to apply for this immigration measure that the Obama administration has implemented to attempt to delay deportations of the undocumented students who would benefit from the DREAM Act, which remains stalled in Congress.
"We had workshops a month ago, in areas of interest and with the aim of having people work together to gather their documents and seek a work permit," Murga said.
Olivia, a 22-year-old undocumented student who was 3 when her family brought her to the United States, was a participant in those sessions.
"They never asked us if we wanted to come (to this country) and we think that we're Americans. Now, with Deferred Action, we see an open door that we had thought was closed," she said.
Murga said she feels this initiative "is better than nothing and is a good start, it takes away from them the burden of being deported. The driver's license and the work permits make a big difference because they pull them out of the shadows."
Community associations across Southern California have been inundated with young people who want to inform themselves about this new opportunity.
Now, a process has been initiated that is beginning to change the mentality of Americans about undocumented students and is a first step toward the approval of the DREAM Act, Olivia said.
Long before the DREAM Act and Deferred Action, the activities of the Pasadena Youth Center were begun as a response to the increase in street violence by gangs.
Through regular programs and special events, the center seeks to help the community get what only education can delivery, working with a base of 2,000 middle and high school students who want to go to college.
"Everybody is interested in having students achieve that because it's the same community that pays the price (of educational failure) in the end," Murga said.
"Economically, it's a great burden to have to go to work to help the family, but it's necessary for people to understand that with a higher education children will be an asset of greater value," she said.
"Everything depends on the Latino community. Deferred Action was the work of the 'Dreamers' (as potential DREAM Act beneficiaries are known), who were the ones who first made their voices heard. The ones who are successful are the ones who never give up," Murga concluded. EFE