By Erika Rosales
On Friday October 25, 2013 College of Marin hosted guest speaker Erika Andiola, an immigration activist from Arizona and undocumented resident.
“I had to leave everything that I had known — friends, family, my home at a very young age, I had no choice,” said Andiola. “I left Mexico with only a backpack full of [trinkets], not what people assume — drugs, and walked the desert with my siblings and mother in search of a better life. Better life is the opportunity to grow with education.”
Andiola said she came to the U.S. when she was 11, when her mother left her abusive father in Mexico and illegally crossed the border. When the state legislature passed strict new immigration laws, she was majoring in Psychology at Arizona State University. Andiola lost her scholarships when these new were implemented. That’s when she began her career as an activist crusading on behalf of the DREAM Act.
The original DREAM Act bill, called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, was first introduced to Congress in 2001. The purpose of the bill was to provide millions of children of illegal immigrants who graduate from high school the opportunity to become a U.S. resident. Children who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, and have been living in the U.S. for at least five years before the bill is enacted into a law, would be granted residency.
Since its introduction, the DREAM Act has been controversial. Its enactment has repeatedly been blocked by Republicans for the last decade. Multiple versions of the bill offering different forms of citizenship have been proposed, but none have passed.
Andiola spoke about the importance of education for the immigrant community, and her hopes that passage of the DREAM Act would create better opportunities for higher eduction. Several versions of the law have included clauses requiring fulfillment of academic standards.
In 2009, after losing her scholarship, Andiola was able to complete her psychology degree. Early in 2013, her family was arrested and threatened with deportation. They were released after allegations that the arrests were retribution for Andiola’s activist role. She continues to campaign for immigrant rights, and the passage of the DREAM Act.