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DREAMer Benita Veliz Speaks to the Democratic National Convention

 

History was made last night at the Democratic National Convention when Benita Veliz–the first DREAMer ever to speak at a convention–took the podium to tell her story.

You can watch the video of her remarks here:

And the transcript:

My name is Benita Veliz, and I’m from San Antonio, Texas. Like so many Americans of all races and backgrounds, I was brought here as a child. I’ve been here ever since.

I graduated as valedictorian of my class at the age of 16 and earned a double major at the age of 20. I know I have something to contribute to my economy and my country. I feel just as American as any of my friends or neighbors.

But I’ve had to live almost my entire life knowing I could be deported just because of the way I came here.

President Obama fought for the DREAM Act to help people like me. And when Congress refused to pass it, he didn’t give up. Instead, he took action so that people like me can apply to stay in our country and contribute. We will keep fighting for reform, but while we do, we are able to work, study and pursue the American dream.

President Obama has fought for my community. Now it’s my honor to introduce one of the leaders in my community who is fighting for him. From her television show to her magazines to her radio network, she is truly an icon: ladies and gentlemen, Cristina Saralegui.

Before her speech, she did an interview with Univision’s Mariana Atencio:

Benita says:

I almost feel like the last 19 years of my life have been in preparation for this moment, in the sense that I’ve spent the last 19 years of my life learning to be undocumented, living in the United States, learning what it’s like to feel American in every sense of the word — and yet, not being able to call yourself an American on paper…and I think all of those experiences have shaped and molded my life into being able to stand up and voice the dreams of many young people who find themselves in this very same situation.

She’s already done that for at least one other DREAMer. Pamela Resendiz, member of the United We Dream Network’s National Coordinating Committee from Texas and friend of Benita Veliz, issued the following statement yesterday: 

Tonight, I know Benita will inspire others because she’s already done that for me.  Benita was the first DREAMer I met while going to school in San Antonio.  In fact, seeing her on Univision Network’s ‘Al Punto’ show taking about her story inspired me to come out as undocumented. Now, 2 years later Benny is making history by speaking at the DNC as an undocumented American representing the voices and work DREAMers across the nation. I hope her words yet again encourage other undocumented DREAM act eligible youth to come out of the shadows, apply for deferred action under the new policy announced by the President, advocate for the DREAM Act.  And I hope that Benita’s example will inspire everyone in the Latino, Asian and immigrant communities to participate in the civil life of this country and make a difference.

Benita’s speech is a huge step forward for the DREAMer movement.  Just this summer, DREAMers have been able to request  deferred action status and temporary protection from deportation.  As DREAMers begin receiving responses and work permits, here’s to hoping that we see more immigrant youth like Benita on the national political stage, continuing to fight for the DREAM Act and permanent legal status.

UPDATE: Here’s MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Steve Schmidt discussing Benita’s speech and how it has brought attention to the role of immigration and the DREAM Act to the DNC.