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Diary of a Hunger Striker: The DREAM ends

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Editor’s note: For several weeks, local students in Indianapolis working for the passage of the DREAM Act have participated in a national Hunger Strike, hoping to increase the urgency, visibility and support of their cause. Several of the strikers have contributed to an online journal here on NUVO.net, providing a first-person account of their motives and struggles. (Day 11, Day 12, Day 13, Day 14, Day 15, Day 17) Yesterday, the DREAM Act failed in the US Senate, falling short of the necessary votes for passage and effectively dying as legislation. In her final entry for the series, 22-year old Dolores Libertad (a pseudonym) shares the group’s reaction.

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After the triumph of the DREAM Act in the US House of Representatives last week, those of us on the hunger strike were hopeful and optimistic when we gathered with supporters and tuned in to C-SPAN 2 yesterday waiting for the Senate vote that would decide our fate.

Discussion of the bill came first, and senators took to the floor in a final attempt to persuade one another that theirs was the right point of view. It was a battle between long established opinions: amnesty for “illegals” versus equal opportunity for young talented students; an increase in the deficit in the long run versus a decrease; opportunistic individuals, some even criminals, who don’t deserve citizenship as a reward for their illegality versus dedicated young men and women who have grown up in the United States asking for the opportunity to attend its universities and serve in its military as Americans, not aliens..

The debate has been going on for 10 years.

When it came time for a vote, the names of the one hundred senators were called loudly but most of their responses were inaudible; every once in a while, confident yeas broke out above the quiet mumbling.

All but three Republicans (Richard Lugar (Indiana), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Bob Bennett (Utah) voted against the DREAM Act. As did a few Democrats, Kay Hagan (North Carolina), Mark Proyer (Arkansas), Ben Nelson (Nebraska), Jon Tester and Max Baucus (Both of Montana). Four senators did not bother casting a ballot at all.

And while the majority of Senators did vote in favor (55-41), a three-fifths majority (60 votes) was needed for passage. In other words, it fell five votes short.

They broke our hearts.

We’ve been waiting at the frontier of shadows and light, so close to finally stepping through and they shut us back at the last second.

This is a day to be remembered for its infamy and to be forgotten slowly, bitterly, as our hearts heal and move past the blow we’ve received — the one that has made us doubt the fairness of the legislative process in this country.

Back in our homes, we expressed our discontent, our sadness and uncertainty for our futures. As did our friends, families and other supporters via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and email.

Disillusion and confusion were reflected in comments such as “Unfortunately RACISM, INTOLERANCE, and the INDIFFERENCE produced by excessive INDIVIDUALISM, are still prevalent in the US.” And, “So we just give up now? It feels like all the effort was worthless.”

These emotions were answered with words of solace like “LA LUCHA CONTINUA!’ —the struggle for our dreams continues” “Continue your education, it is a treasure that neither a politician nor an immigration judge can take away from you.”

Kathy Souchet-Moura shared some very powerful words in an email to members of our group and the entire network of Latino/a Youth Collective allies.

“Today’s vote hurts Indiana by denying us of the full talents DREAMers can bring to our ailing economy and civic vitality.”

But, she continued, “The DREAM Act, important as may be, does not define us. We will continue to fight for justice, not just for immigrant youth, but for all those often left without a voice.”

We are still undocumented but we are not defeated.

We know the underbelly of justice. We feel it and live it but we will make a difference; our reach will continue to spread far in our communities.

We’ll continue to work, to study and learn. We’ll prove the content of our character, improve and reflect on it. We’ll continue to build with allies, like Sen. Lugar to whom we owe many thanks, and influence our enemies

And we will NEVER, ever give up.

(For those who wonder, after 18 days on this hunger strike, my first bite of food was an orange. And it tasted wonderful).

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