Ola Kaso’s Inspiring Testimony at Sen. Durbin’s DREAM Act Hearing
Today’s DREAM Act hearing held by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) was another testament to the importance of connecting policy debates to the real people affected by the outcome. All the witnesses – including the Secretaries of Education and Homeland Security as well as an Undersecretary of Defense and retired Lieutenant Colonel of the U.S. Army reserve — gave compelling testimony that highlighted the humanity, courage, achievement and potential of the students this bill would affect, many of whom were in the room for the hearing.
The star witness, though, was Ola Kaso, an 18-year-old Albanian-American student facing deportation. Ola just graduated from high school with a 4.4 GPA and has enrolled at the University of Michigan on a scholarship to study pre-med and pursue her dream of being a surgical oncologist.
But two weeks before her graduation, Ola’s dreams were cast into doubt because of her immigration status. Her story highlights the brokenness of our current system and how the DREAM Act could improve it. (You can watch Ola’s testimony here around the 122:24 mark).
In late March, I was told I would be deported in less than a week. I was two weeks short of obtaining my high school diploma. I was shocked. How could I be sent to a place I did not remember? A culture completely foreign to me? I am not fluent in Albanian, so if I were to be sent back, I could not pursue a college education in Albania. My hard work, my dreams, and my future were at risk of being eradicated. I have considered one country, and one country only, to be my home. America is my home, not Albania.
My community rallied around me. They asked for my deportation to be suspended. The Department of Homeland Security responded and granted me deferred action for one year so I can continue my studies.
My family came here legally and we followed the law every step of the way. Despite my compliance with the law, there is no way I can obtain citizenship under current law; despite all my hard work and contributions, I face removal from the only country I have considered home. Despite my aspirations and good intentions for my country, I face deportation in less than a year.
I am a DREAM Act student. I was brought to this country when I was 4 years old. I grew up here. I am American in my heart.
There are thousands of other Dreamers just like me. All we are asking for is a chance to contribute to the country we love. Please support the DREAM Act.
Conservative opponents of the bill were unable to come up with good reasons to deny Ola and other DREAMers students the opportunity to contribute to our country, resorting instead to flimsy complaints about language and procedural issues. With such broad consensus about the moral necessity of solving this problem, weak arguments like these should not get in the way of passing this fair, compassionate, common-sense bill.