Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Quote of the moment: The student 'most likely to save the world' on status and studies

Photo by Josh Self/Flickr (Creative Commons)

College students and graduates campaigning for passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, heard yesterday in a Senate subcommittee, staged a mock graduation ceremony this morning in Washington, D.C.

Among those who participated was Mandeep Chahal, an undocumented UC David pre-med student who recently received a last-minute reprieve from deportation to India, along with her mother. The immigrant advocacy group America's Voice tweeted quotes from participants as they spoke, including this one attributed to Chahal:

It scared me, so I told almost no one. I focused on my grades, I thought if I ignored my secret problem, it would go away.

It's been noted that Chahal, who arrived in the U.S. at age 6, was voted "Most Likely to Save the World" by her classmates at Los Altos High School. She and her mother were granted a stay of deportation by the federal government following a social media campaign and signature-gathering effort.

Chahal's quote about her "secret problem" echoes the story of ex-Washington Post journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who revealed his undocumented status in a New York Times Magazine essay last week. He wrote about how upon learning he was undocumented - and how admitting it led to closed doors - he plowed ahead with his secret, revealing it only to a few close confidantes. The Pulitzer winner's admission has sparked reactions ranging from applause to anger and disappointment, including from former employers like the San Francisco Chronicle.

Vargas, who gave the "commencement speech" at the mock graduation ceremony, was also quoted in the @americasvoice Twitter feed:

Jose: Ask yourself, what would you do? If your parents were undoc? If your child's best friend was here illegally?

Participants were marching to the White House afterward to demonstrate.

The latest version of the Dream Act, similar to the one approved by the House last year, would grant conditional legal status to undocumented young people brought to the U.S. before age 16 if they attend college or join the military, along with other criteria.