New Haven “DREAMer” Sees A Dream Come True
by Melissa Bailey | Sep 6, 2012 12:30 pm
Posted to: Immigrants, Politics, Campaign 2012
Charlotte, N.C.—When an undocumented immigrant took stage at a national party convention for the first time, Lorella Praeli reveled in a “historic moment” for a national movement she has helped spearhead.
Lorella Praeli (pictured), an undocumented Peruvian immigrant who lives in New Haven, flew down to Charlotte this week to take part in the Democratic National Convention (DNC). She worked behind the scenes to help Benita Veliz, a high school valedictorian from San Antonio, step into the spotlight as the face of the DREAM movement, which advocates for undocumented immigrants who were children at the time their families brought them to the U.S.
Veliz made history as she addressed the DNC Wednesday night, the first undocumented immigrant to take that platform. In a two-minute speech, she revealed that her parents had brought her to the U.S. illegally. She thanked President Obama for issuing an order that will grant DREAMers like her temporary refuge from deportation.
Click here to watch her speech. It reflected the national party’s decision this year to embrace the cause of immigration reformers at a time when Republicans have adopted a harder line on immigration.
“I just can’t believe this moment,” Praeli, who’s 24, said she told Veliz before the speech.
Praeli called the short speech monumental—both on a personal and policy level.
She said Veliz was an early inspiration to her when, in 2009, Praeli traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend a mock “graduation” event held by a group of DREAMers. The DREAMers take their name from the federal DREAM Act, which would create a pathway to citizenship for kids who were brought to the States illegally. The act has repeatedly failed to pass through Congress.
Praeli, whose family immigrated to Connecticut illegally from Peru, was living “in the shadows” at the time, traveling under the guise of a research project. She heard Veliz tell her story—about how a high school valedictorian who earned a college degree at age 20 faced deportation after a minor traffic stop.
“I was very moved,” Praeli recalled.
The following year, Praeli came out of the shadows at a press event in New Haven. Since then, she has emerged as a national leader in the DREAMer movement. Praeli founded a Connecticut group that successfully lobbied the state to create its own DREAM Act, allowing DREAMers to pay in-state tuition rates at Connecticut colleges and universities.
Now she’s the policy coordinator for the United We Dream Network, a national advocacy group for children of undocumented immigrants.
Veliz’s was one of the first cases United We Dream took on as it launched a campaign to publicize the stories of DREAMers at risk of deportation.
The group successfully lobbied for Veliz to stay in the States. And it celebrated a victory when Obama, instead of waiting for Congress to pass the DREAM Act, opened the doors for DREAMers by allowing them to apply for temporary relief from deportation. Read more about that here.
Praeli met with Veliz Wednesday morning in a restaurant at the Westin Hotel in Uptown Charlotte. They were joined by Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who made waves last year when he revealed status as an undocumented Filipino immigrant in an essay in the New York Times Magazine.Praeli said she didn’t help Veliz write her speech; the group met to come up with a strategy to face the 15,000 members of the media covering the event.Praeli said Veliz’ speech marked a moment in history for the DREAMer movement.“Think back to 2008,” she said. “That never would have happened.”Since then, Praeli and fellow DREAMers have come far, she said: Praeli and co. emerged in the national spotlight, appearing on the cover of TIME Magazine. Obama answered their pleas with his administrative order. And then the Democratic Party put them in the spotlight at this week’s convention.“All of these really big moments for us have changed the narrative” of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., Praeli argued.“They are really recognizing our presence, our value, and our membership in this nation,” she said. “We are not just these illegal people—we are members of this society.”She said one piece was missing from Veliz’s short speech Wednesday: Praise not just for Obama, but for the everyday DREAMers who helped change national policy.“We wouldn’t be celebrating if it were not for the courage” of the DREAMers who came out of the shadows, she said.Praeli plans to move from New Haven to Washington, D.C. to devote her time to the United We Dream Network. She said her next focus will be on helping DREAMers take advantage of Obama’s offer of deferred action—and pushing for a solution that would bring “permanent relief.”“We want comprehensive immigration reform,” she said. “I think we have a long way to go there.” Wednesday was a memorable step along the way. Previous Independent stories from the Democratic National Convention:• Call Him Surrogate General • DeStefano: Time To “Relinquish Power” • Echo From Floor As DeLauro Calls For Pay Equity • Union Boss Boycotts Breakfast • Murphy SOS Goes Out In Charlotte
Post a Comment
So she got “temporary relief from deportation”? How did she manage to get through security at an airport to take a flight to Charlotte? I didn’t think DeStefano’s ID cards would suffice for the FAA.
Curious—the Elm City ID card is a government-issued ID card that is sufficient for getting on an airplane. Meanwhile, way to miss the big picture for a minor detail. Congratulations to Praeli and all of the other very deserving DREAMers! In my eyes you are as American as any other child raised in the US. I hope President Obama can get Congress to take its head out of the xenophobic sand during his next term and make the DREAM Act a full law!
Melissa Bailey is doing a great job as a true journalist - finding the stories behind the scenes.
It is greatly appreciated as I see other reporters going for the obvious.
Thank you to the New Haven Independent!
@ Curious: many immigrants to use IDs from their home country (such as a passport, voter registration id or drivers license) if they are unable to obtain and ID legally in the US. These are valid government-issued IDs—they were just issued by a government other than the US. Others use fake or borrowed documents to obtain otherwise legitimate drivers licenses or state ID cards. (“Otherwise legitimate” meaning they were obtained from the RMV and would be legit if they had not been secured using false documents.)
You need real ID, not just a municipally-issued ID, to board a plane.
You also need a “Valid State Issued Photo ID or Valid Passport” to even get a New Haven ID, so how does an illegal immigrant manage to get one of those?
If you don’t think Homeland Security is serious, you might want to remember 9/11. If anyone can get a New Haven ID and then get on a flight, that is not great.
That’s right, invoke the spectre of 9/11. When 19 men who came to the US with visas and passports hijacked 4 planes. Not illegal immigrants. The ID rule is almost as useful at preventing another 9/11 as the taking off your shoes at the x-ray rule.
Here are the Elm City Resident Card requirements:
Read the policy again for the New Haven Issued ID. It states Valid State Issued ID or Valid Passport. Note that it doesn’t state VALID US PASSPORT.
If the individual has a valid passport from their country of origin which hasn’t expired, then obviously…it’s valid.