Pro-immigration 'dream' walkers make chilly stop in Lake Worth
Trail of Dreams walkers Gaby Pacheco, left, and Felipe Matos are joined by dozens of community supporters as they make their way towards City Hall in Lake Worth Wednesday.
Juan Rodriguez (l-r), Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco and Carlos Roa stand at the steps of Lake Worth's City Hall.
By Willie Howard
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Updated: 8:39 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010
LAKE WORTH — Four Miami-Dade County college students braved cold winds Wednesday
to discuss the plight of undocumented immigrants on the steps of city hall as part of the
Trail of Dreams walk — a months-long trek from Miami to the nation's capital intended to
build support for immigration reform.
"I cannot ignore the fact that people in my community are disappearing,"
said Juan Rodriguez, 23, a native of Colombia who moved to the United States
at age 6 and has since obtained permanent resident status.
Another Dream walker, Felipe Matos, 23, a native of Brazil, said he has
won academic awards at Miami Dade College but cannot get a driver's license
and can't work legally.
Dressed in a sweatshirt and blue stocking cap,
Matos broke into song at city hall.
"We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes,"
he sang to a receptive crowd of about 50.
City Commissioner Cara Jennings read a proclamation declaring
Jan. 6 as Dreamer's Day in Lake Worth to commemorate the walkers' visit.
Palm Beach County sheriff's deputies mingled with the crowd in case of conflict,
but no problems arose at city hall or at the Lake Worth Resource Center,
where the walkers and supporters enjoyed a hot lunch of rice, meat, beans and tortillas
before continuing north to West Palm Beach, where they planned to participate in an
interfaith service at St. Ann Catholic Church .
The walkers are scheduled to stop at the Mangonia Park offices
of U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar,
on Thursday before continuing north toward Martin County.
Supporters so far have provided food and shelter for the walkers.
Members of like-minded organizations such as the
Palm Beach County Coalition for Immigrant Rights have joined the walkers,
who hiked along Dixie Highway from Boynton Beach to reach Lake Worth.
"We're trusting the goodwill of the people," said Carlos Roa, 22,
a native of Venezuela and a student at Miami Dade College.
"It's been a great experience, a very humbling experience."
The Trail of Dreams was named in part for the American Dream Act —
proposed federal legislation that would provide conditional resident status
to undocumented students of "good moral character."
To qualify, the legislation would require students to have come to the United States
before the age of 16. They must have graduated from high school or earned a GED
and must be able to prove U.S. residency for five consecutive years.
As proposed, conditional status would be granted to students for six years.
To be eligible to apply for permanent resident status, the students would have to
graduate with a two-year degree from a community college or complete at least
two years in college.
They could also serve at least two years in the military
with an honorable discharge, if discharged.
The Dream walkers said the name of their northward march
was intended to resemble the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation
of American Indians from their home territories to Oklahoma.
"This time we want to do it for dreams, not for tears," Matos said.
The walkers are carrying a "dream quilt" created by the Latino Youth Collective in Indiana.
Supporters at the Lake Worth Resource Center drew or wrote their dreams
on fabric squares to be sewn onto the quilt,
which has about 900 squares and is 50 feet long.
"We found it to be a very good tool in building solidarity," Felipe Vargas said of the quilt,
comparing it to the quilt patterns used by Southern blacks
to escape slavery via the Underground Railroad.
Vargas, a teacher at Indiana University, is driving the RV used as a support vehicle
for the walkers, who plan to reach Washington in May.
When they arrive in the capital, the walkers say they hope to ask President Obama
to use his executive powers to stop the deportation of students who were brought
to the United States as children and to stop deportations that separate families with
"We're going to deliver the dreams to Obama," Matos said.