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YU News

Dreamers Come Together in Staten Island

Care Cafe on DACACare Cafe 2-21.
By Michelle Bialeck

In an extremely powerful evening, Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University teamed up with La Colmena Community Center in Staten Island to present “Understanding DACA: Past, Present, and Future.” The event was hosted by the first DACA recipient to become a U.S. lawyer, former advisor to Bernie Sanders, and a strong advocate for migrant reform, Cesar Vargas. Cesar brought to the forum a panel of Dreamers, faculty from the College of Staten Island, and the founder of Safe Passage law group (a group of lawyers working to support immigrant youth free of charge.)

In a crowd filled with community members, DACA recipients, and Staten Island social workers, Dreamers shared their stories in an interactive group environment, before Vargas and other law experts shared practical advice and community resources. Dreamers in the crowd used the platform to dispel certain mistruths about their experience.

“What we get is the right to work and the right to go to school,” said one Dreamer, who spoke to the necessity of “debunking myths. We are not taking hand-outs. In fact, we cannot even apply for financial aid or any government aid.”
Another young Dreamer who began the CSI Dreamers club and who was studying to be a nurse added, “We are your coworkers, we are your peers, we are your neighbors.”

Dreamers, including Vargas, spoke of living in families that were broken apart by boarders. “Family separation was nothing new for me,” said one Dreamer who described Staten Island as the only home he knows.
With all of his challenges, working several jobs to finish his undergraduate degree, his message to keep fighting and to keep asking for what you deserve, resounded:

“The answer will always be no unless you ask.”

When one social worker in the audience asked advice of CSI’s Ruth Powers Silverberg, a professor who works closely with Dreamers in the community, she responded:

“A community tells us what they need. It is up to us to listen.”
Our Care Cafe brought Staten Island community, students, leaders, and helpers all together, not only for an immigrant cause, but for a human cause.

Michelle Bialeck Michelle Bialeck

- Michelle Bialeck has been working with at-risk youth and immigrant families for well over a decade and is looking forward to attaining a PhD in social welfare.