Activist and friend hope for DREAM Act passage

Immigrant rights
By ANNE HOFFMAN  |  December 8, 2010

RALLYING FOR A FRIEND Jessy Galvéz marches for immigration reform.

Jessy Galvéz is kneeling at the altar of El Sinai Church in Portland, at an interfaith vigil supporting the DREAM Act. Above him a sign reads, "Education not Deportation!" Earlier today, he spoke at a pro-DREAM rally in Lewiston. As he prays, he moves his hands, softly striking the blue carpet of the altar. He is pleading with God. Te suplico, he says. I beseech you.


Help us.

Make this bill a reality. In your infinite mercy, support those who've crossed the desert, just as you did.

It's December 3. Senator Harry Reid has recently announced that he will introduce the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill to be voted on during the lame-duck session of Congress. The bill might be voted on sometime this week. All over the country, undocumented young people are gathering in support of the DREAM Act, named for an acronym: "Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors." The bill, if passed, would make 2.1 million undocumented immigrant young people eligible for permanent US residency upon completion of two years in the military or two years of higher education. Eventually, they would be eligible to apply for citizenship.

Jessy, a 21-year-old from Portland, has been advocating for passage of the DREAM Act since April, when his best friend, Selvin Arévalo, was detained after rear-ending another car. He panicked, fled the scene, and was stopped by a Portland police officer who had seen the accident. The local police department notified ICE — Immigration and Customs Enforcement — who sent Selvin to the Cumberland County Jail. Eventually he was transferred to another jail in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, where he stayed until early November.

Selvin, an undocumented Guatemalan immigrant now involved in deportation proceedings, was about to complete high school before his arrest. He will be eligible for citizenship if the DREAM Act passes.

The brothers and sisters from El Sinai pray and pray. They are raising a clamor, a strong protest intended to move God to take action. It is a night of tears, of struggle, of deep longings which take expression through knees to the ground petitions.

When the prayer ends, Selvin will speak, and Jessy will translate.

Jessy didn't become an activist until Selvin was taken away. When that happened, the DREAM Act and immigration reform became personal for him.

On a Friday night in April, Jessy was working at La Familia Restaurant when El Sinai's co-pastor Israel Ortiz called to tell him, "they got Selvin."

Jessy was devastated. He and Selvin had been together the night before. They'd gone swimming and spent hours talking. Selvin confided in Jessy that he was at one of the happiest moments in his life, playing guitar for the church choir and just days away from high school graduation.

Jessy looked up to Selvin, who was 24. Selvin had watched Jessy struggle with school and commit himself more fully to God. It was Selvin who counseled Jessy to stick with his studies and avoid the futureless world of manual labor. He offered advice on every aspect of Jessy's life, from spiritual questions to the elusive world of dating and girls.

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