Claudia Yoli Ferla
To say we are not Americans, is to say we are different, but we live in the same cities, we go to the same schools, we speak the same languages, and more importantly, we have a common dream.
My Mother’s Dream
Harriet Tubman once said, “every great dream begins with a dreamer.”
When I was eight years old, my mom had a dream. Just a few weeks after my little sister passed away, my mother made the difficult decision to migrate to the United States. Despite her pain and sorrow, she dreamed of providing me with opportunities my little sister would never have.
So, I grew up in El Paso, a border community surrounded by mystic mountains, where everyone always understood the complexities of the immigration system. And like many immigrants here, my mom and I adopted the values of this country as our own.
During my high school senior year, my mother became very ill and my family decided that the best option for her was to move back to Venezuela. Despite her leaving, I stayed here to pursue a higher education, my own American Dream. Unfortunately, the biggest challenge for me and millions of other immigrants in this country is that some want to make our dreams unattainable, even though we have already sacrificed so much. We are subject to violent immigration practices that tear our families apart and force us to live in fear, and unable to access basic needs like health care and education.
However, just because we are not citizens, it does not mean we are in the shadows. Over the years, I have worked to help register voters, elect candidates, and support policies that I believe were best to improve our communities. I believe in the power of storytelling and often share my story to educate others on issues that affect us all. Despite not being eligible to vote, this is how I give undocumented immigrants like me a voice.
Although politicians have denigrated immigrants and painted our border communities as unsafe, it is important for immigrants and allies to stand together. This allows us to strip away the hateful political rhetoric, and focus on people, our stories and our power.
Immigrants are your friends, neighbors, classmates, and more. To say we are not Americans, is to say we are different, but we live in the same cities, we go to the same schools, we speak the same languages, and more importantly, we have a common dream.
I wasn't able to be with my mother when she passed away, but I know that she would be very proud of all of my accomplishments. She was the original dreamer, and no one should ever criminalize her act of love. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program didn't provide me with an immigration status, but it protected me from deportation and allowed me to work in the United States. For many of us, it meant an opportunity to achieve our dreams.
I now function as the Director of Student Outreach and Organizing at Deeds Not Words, and I take pride in being part of a network of #ChangeMakers who advocate for social and political progress. At Deeds Not Words we are committed to support women’s rights and other marginalized communities. We stand with DREAMers and their families. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that Congress do its job and pass a clean DREAM ACT, a bill that will protect 3.5 million undocumented youth like me from deportation and provide us with a rightful pathway to citizenship. We are American in every meaningful way, and we are part of the American future. We are not bargaining chips for a border wall. ¡Hoy nuestra lucha continua!
I’m in this fight because undocumented immigrants are an integral part of the resistance and we won’t let small minds tell us our dreams are too big. I'm Claudia Yoli Ferla. I’m from a birth that will always belong to my dear Venezuela, but from a heart that will always read “El Paso De Mi Corazon.” I'm a DREAMer; a feminist; an activist; a student; a future voter; a #ChangeMaker.