One afternoon, the young boy from Lafayette came home from fifth grade classes to discover that his father had been deported.
Before going back to school the next day, the boy dried his eyes and steeled himself to pretend nothing had happened. Otherwise, the suspicion would be directed toward him and his mother and brothers.
Born in Zacatecas, Mexico, the boy stayed in Lafayette and stayed in school. He is now 19 years old, a high school graduate dreaming of attending college. He is also justifiably afraid of having his name appear in a newspaper article.
"Undocumented young people usually arrive with their families and have no understanding of their immigration status." - U.S. Senator Richard Lugar
His brothers are still in Indiana, too, working and raising families. They are living a pretty good life, the young man says. "Except when they have to fear they will not go home to their kids."
For the young man, being an undocumented immigrant means not just the lack of a Social Security number -- "That nine-digit number makes a big difference," he says. -- but also the presence of legal and financial barriers to obtaining a university education.
So he helped organize a bus full of Lafayette area students to travel to Washington to join other Hoosiers and tens of thousands of other young immigrants for a rally March 21 and meetings with elected officials the next day.
Their goal is comprehensive immigration reform, including earned legalization for the 12 million people in the United States who, like the young man's brothers, work hard to pull their families out of poverty. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer from New York are crafting an immigration reform bill to match President Obama's campaign promises to fix the broken system.
But the young man is understandably focused on an existing bill, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would allow students like him to become permanent residents if they came to the United States as children and attend college or enroll in the military for at least two years.
"In Indiana alone, according to a recent study by the Sagamore Institute, immigrants pay over $2 billion annually in taxes, including hundreds of millions paid by undocumented workers."
Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, along with Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, has introduced the DREAM Act. Indianapolis Democratic Representative Andre Carson cosponsors companion House legislation.
"Undocumented young people usually arrive with their families and have no understanding of their immigration status," Lugar said when announcing the legislation. "By limiting these students' access to college, we deny our country their intelligence, creativity, energy, and often their loyalty."
Lugar also co-sponsors the AgJOBS Act, which would create a path to legal status for the long-term agricultural workers whom Indiana's and the nation's economy counts on. In Indiana alone, according to a recent study by the Sagamore Institute, immigrants pay over $2 billion annually in taxes, including hundreds of millions paid by undocumented workers.
The student-oriented legislation may be called the DREAM Act, but the young man says it also promises a chance to escape a nightmare.
"It is about more than going to college," he says. "If this becomes law, we would finally be able to drive without fear, walk without fear, tell our complete name without fear."
Fran Quigley is a Visiting Professor of Law at the Indiana University School of Law--Indianapolis. He can be reached at .