Hundreds gathered in Cleveland on Thursday despite the wind, rain and cold for a vigil supporting Dreamers, DACA, and the Dream Act.
The event was attended by Ohioans from all over the region, including Wooster, Oberlin, Lorain, Painesville, and Akron, and was an emotional and stirring event that showcased a clear sense of love, compassion, and community.
The crowd heard from seven Dreamers sharing their stories, including some who’d never publicly spoken about their lives before. They shared their fears for themselves, their futures, and their families, while an eighth Dreamer recited an impassioned poem.
One Dreamer, a college student, spoke about how she came from Honduras when she was 1 and how the day of her DACA enrollment was one of the happiest days of her life. She was 15, and the program meant that she could find a job and pay taxes. "I'm not a criminal," she said. "I'm not a rapist. I'm not a drug addict. I work hard every day of my life. ... I'm not a political game."
Another Dreamer, Jose Mendez, came from Mexico at the age of 7, and spoke about how he literally protects American communities and lives. As he said, “I work for a security company. I actually am a security guard. I protect American citizens for a living. That's ironic, right? We are here and we are contributing to society.”
A third Dreamer, in one of the night’s most powerful moments, told the crowd that she hoped to attend Cleveland State University, but that she was terrified for her future.
"This is my home," she told the crowd. "I may not be American…"
"Yes you are!" one man yelled, to cheers and applause.
"I may not be American by paper," she continued, now visibly choked up. "But I am by heart."
Speakers during the vigil also called on attendees to support the Dream Act and get their members of Congress to back legislation. “We want them [elected officials] to do their job,” said Jose Mendez. “Do it. Don’t talk about it. Do it.”
Before and after the vigil, music was broadcast from a Spotify playlist hand-selected by Dreamers, which included personal messages of support from artists such as Juanes, Daddy Yankee, and Demi Lovato.
Cleveland and Ohio-area leaders including Dennis Kucinich, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Gov. John Kasich, and the Catholic bishop of Cleveland all spoke out this week in favor of Dreamers.
The vigil was organized by Ohio’s Voice, DreamActivist Ohio, Cleveland Jobs With Justice, Indivisible CLE, LOIRA, the InterReligious Task Force on Central America and Colombia, Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network, Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus and others.