On May 13, 2010, Gaby Pacheco returned home to South Florida after completing a four-month, 1,500-mile walk from Miami to Washington, D.C. to press Congress to pass a bill that would legalize millions of undocumented immigrants, including herself.
She was one of four young people — all students or former students of Miami Dade College — who made the trek in the name of countless undocumented immigrants.
The walk was hailed as a milestone in the immigration activists’ struggle for reform and legal status for the nation’s undocumented immigrants.
Last Monday, the 28-year-old Pacheco was back in Washington. This time, she rode aboard an airplane. But her message was the same to lawmakers when she appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The panel was reviewing a Senate bill that would allow the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, including 740,000 in Florida, to eventually become legal U.S. residents. She spoke as an immigrant rights leader and director of the Bridge Project in Miami.
Pacheco, who choked back tears toward the end of her remarks, recited to the senators her family’s story of living in the shadows of American society. Her plea was straightforward: Allow her and millions of others like her to pursue the American Dream.
Below, Pacheco’s testimony:
Thank you Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Grassley, and members of this committee for giving me the opportunity to testify today in support of S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.
My name is Maria Gabriela “Gaby” Pacheco and I am an “undocumented American.” I was born in 1985 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. In 1993, at the age of eight, I moved to the United States with my parents and three siblings.
Out of everyone who is here testifying today, I am the only one that comes to you as one of the 11 million undocumented people in this country.
My family reflects the diversity and beauty of America. We are part of a strong working class; a mixed-status family who are your neighbors, classmates, fellow parishioners, consumers, and part of the fabric of this nation.
My father is an ordained Southern Baptist preacher who currently works as a window washer. My mom is a licensed nurse’s aide, but due to health problems she has not been able to work the last couple of years. Their hope is to continue to support their family while at the same time contributing to this country’s economic growth.
My oldest sister, Erika, is eagerly counting the days when she is able to apply for citizenship later this year. She is married to a United States citizen and has two United States citizen children, Isaac and Eriana. She will be able to vote in the next national election.
Mari, my second oldest sister, currently works managing a construction company. Although a DREAMer, she did not qualify for the Department of Homeland Security’s new initiative, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), because she is over the age of 30. The DREAM Act provisions under S.744 will provide her a permanent path forward.
My younger brother is a proud business owner; he has a car washing business. Last month, at the age of 27, because of DACA he was able to get a driver’s license and buy his first car. However, DACA is not a permanent solution.