Everyone has a story. Those stories can explain where we're from and how we got here, but they also show what we believe in and what we're fighting for. For the past week, OFA supporters have been gathering in living rooms and meeting halls across the country to hear the stories of DREAMers who've been fighting so hard to make immigration reform happen. Check out the highlights from a few screenings of The Dream is Now last night:
Here in Chicago, we had a wonderful community gathering. In a powerful exercise at the start of the evening, we shared our American stories. One by one, we called out our countries of origin. India, Lithuania, Mexico, France, Ireland, Nigeria, Germany, Poland. Some of us were naturalized citizens, some were undocumented, some had green cards, and some were third-generation Americans, but we all came from somewhere else and this was a powerful reminder.
There was not a dry eye in the house as the stories were recounted—Marnee Ostoa, a Chicagoan and a DREAMer, talked about her heartbreak at discovering at a young age that her dreams could be crushed because of her legal status.
"One day when I was 12, I was listening to the radio and heard a casting call for a big TV channel. I wanted to be a star, so I signed up for it. When I told my parents that they had to take me to a casting call, they looked at each other without saying a word. My dad then told me we had to talk.
We went to my room and he told me that even if I were to be accepted I wouldn't be able to do it because I was undocumented. That broke my heart and I couldn't accept it, so I made them take me anyway. It went better than I expected and one day later they told me that I had been accepted to a callback casting in L.A. I was very happy. Then they asked me to bring my social security number and legal documents. I didn't have them. I told them that and they said that I couldn't be part of it if I wasn't a legal resident. They apologized and hung up."
She described a sense of hopelessness after this discovery that eventually led to her dropping out of high school. Marnee is one of the DREAMers who is now benefiting from Deferred Action (DACA). She has a job, is starting college in the fall, and is excited for her future.
Alderman Ameya Pawar, who is Chicago's first alderman of South Asian descent, shared how his parents came here from India through visas in the early '70s with six dollars in their pockets.
"A generation later, I’m an elected official serving my community, my sister is a doctor treating members of our community, and my first cousin is an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force protecting our country. Immigration reform is a critical component to building this great nation, keeping us competitive on a world stage, and it’s absolutely a moral imperative."
These were just some of the incredible stories that were shared last night. If you want to learn more about the DREAMers, you can start with Ola's story, then RSVP to watch the free livestream of the full film Thursday night.