Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton Gives President Obama a Letter Written By Arizona Dreamer
Tony Valdovinos in 2012 working to increase voter turnout in his community.
Facebook/Team Awesome Arizona
Mayor Greg Stanton briefly spoke with President Barack Obama when he arrived in Phoenix to speak about the U.S. housing market.
Along with a welcome, a handshake and a half-hug, Stanton had a letter for Obama written by a local Dreamer -- Antonio (Tony) Valdovinos.
The letter thanked the president for his deferred action initiative and support of comprehensive immigration reform.
See also: -How Undocumented Immigrants Helped Change Phoenix's City Council Race -Brewer to DREAMers: Laws Bar You from Drivers Licenses Regardless of Feds' Shift -Brewer's Order to Deny Driver's Licenses Earns Her a Lawsuit
The letter was written by Valdovinos, one of the leaders of Team Awesome, a group of students who mobilized their west Phoenix community and more than quadrupled voter turnout recently.
Valdovinos lives in Phoenix and is among the 300,000 young people who are now able to work in the U.S. because of "deferred action."
Valdovinos thanked President Obama for "helping people like me live without fear for the first time in my life" and for turning "Dreamers into Achievers."
Young, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children have been dubbed Dreamers because they would benefit from the DREAM Act, a bipartisan measure that has been blocked due to the ongoing Congressional gridlock in Washington. It would provide certain young immigrants a path to citizenship if they met requirements including attending college or joining the military.
In June 2012, the Obama administration announced deferred action.
When deferred action was unveiled, Governor Jan Brewer immediately released a statement ensuring her anti-immigrant supporters that the young people who qualified for deferred action, and thus lawful employment, would not be granted Arizona driver's licenses.
The full text of Valdovinos's letter can be found on the next page.
Dear President Obama:
I am one of the 300,000 Dreamers who has a better life in the only country I have ever known because of you.
The words thank you are not nearly enough to show how grateful I am for you helping people like me live without fear for the first time in my life, and for giving me the opportunity to make a better life for myself. I will show my deep gratitude the only way I know how: by pledging to give back, and help others the way you have helped me.
I came to the United States when I was two years old, and don't have any memories of the place I was born. Growing up, we had only one flag - the Stars and Stripes - and the experiences of my family are the same as those of my friends who were born here. On 9/11, my family mourned like any other American family, and we wanted to help. When I graduated high school, I proudly walked into the U.S. Marine Corps recruiter office to sign up for duty, but I was told no - I was not allowed to serve. It was the first time I felt rejected by the country I loved, and it hurt.
It took me a while to learn how I was different from my friends who were born on American soil. My mother was nervous to talk about it. But I soon learned that I couldn't get a good job, and instead moved hundreds of pounds of concrete every day on the construction site because that was the only place that would take me. Those construction jobs helped me build a strong work ethic, but I wanted something more and I couldn't work toward it. I was stuck.
Just as frustrating as the glass ceiling was the fear my family and me felt every day. It was a fear conditioned in us early on, even when I didn't understand why. Don't look at a police officer in the eyes, we were told, he'll think something's up. And when I took classes at the local community college, I walked an hour to campus and another hour back because my family feared that I would be pulled over by the police and deported. So much fear has built up in my mother that she's even afraid for me to write this letter to you and speak up.
I don't think of my story as a hardship or struggle, but instead as a series of events that have tested my own personal character and motivated me to change things. When I got to college, I started organizing to energize others to demand better circumstances for all of us. As a lead student organizer for Team Awesome in Phoenix, I knocked on doors every day to talk to people in the community, and even though I could not vote, reached out to those who could to ask them to help our community break free from the perpetual feeling of hopelessness.
Through organizing, we changed our community and finally proved that despite our immigration status, we could meet what we believe is our duty and responsibility to help build a stronger America. With your deferred action decision, you have validated what we have worked for, and told us that we too have a stake in the only country we have ever known and loved.
You, Mr. President, have turned Dreamers into Achievers.
I am eternally grateful to you for believing in me, in all of us, and for helping give each of us a shot at a better life.
Antonio Valdovinos Phoenix, Arizona
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