Witness to a Dream

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Gil Cedillo, walked to the stage to address the 2012 Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Sonoma County Scholarship Gala.

Earlier this summer 10,000 Degrees was honored to attend the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Sonoma County Scholarship Gala where two of our students were recognized for their academic achievements. The evening was an overwhelming success and we walked away repeating a line that was uttered by each recipient — “I am a dreamer.” How powerful it was to hear those words spoken. “I am a dreamer” rang through the Rohnert Park hotel ballroom as a stand of solidarity — for documented and undocumented student alike — that their lives will reflect their aspirations and not any shackles of legal limbo or racial injustice. The gala’s featured speaker, California Representative Gil Cedillo (pictured above) is the author of the California DREAM Act (AB 130 and AB 131) and he took the time to answer some of our questions.

10,000 Degrees: What is the impact of the California DREAM Act?
Cedillo: Education is key to upward mobility and success in this country. AB 131, the second portion of the California DREAM Act takes effect on January 1, 2013. It provides for Cal Grants, Institutional Aid and BOG (Board of Governors) fee waivers for community colleges for eligible students (AB 540 students). AB 130, the first part, was signed into law in July and provided access for undocumented students to receive private grants and scholarships. I want to ensure that all youth who are eligible, take advantage of these historic laws.

10,000 Degrees: Why did you come to Sonoma to speak?
Cedillo: I came to Sonoma to support the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s mission to grant scholarships to promising Latino Kids, even though it was out of my Los Angeles district. I was flattered to be asked to travel to Sonoma and moved by the response I received by the students.

10,000 Degrees: How did feel to hear student after student say, “I am a dreamer.”?
Cedillo: It’s great that students have dreams for higher education. I am so impressed with the determination of dreamers. Against all odds they have had the fortitude to study and get into college. I am delighted to help them fund their education. I had been working to get the DREAM Act signed into law for several years. The former governor vetoed it several times, but at last, Governor Brown saw the vision of how important dreamers are to the economic future of California when he signed it last year.

10,000 Degrees: What do you view as the next turning point for undocumented Americans?
Cedillo: Comprehensive Immigration reform. We need to re-elect President Obama, as he offers us the best chance to pass it and sign it. If he is re-elected, we need to work with him and Congress to pass and sign this legislation that is important not only to those directly benefiting from it, but also for the economic vitally of our nation.

Civic engagement is key to make this happen. We must continue to register those in our community who are eligible to vote and turn them out to vote. Elected officials listen to electoral power and we must demonstrate that as a community. By increasing our electoral power our issues are taken seriously and it is more likely that actions will be taken to benefit us all.