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Walk the dream

March to Ann Arbor puts immigration reform in spotlight

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Published 5/5/2010

Chanting "Education not deportation," a dozen marchers set off on foot from southwest Detroit's Clark Park Thursday morning, heading to Ann Arbor, where President Barack Obama spoke at Saturday's commencement.

By Friday, they felt like national celebrities when CNN listed one of the walkers, Dayanna (who doesn't give out her last name because she is undocumented) as one of "Friday's Intriguing People." The blog post about her described the march.

By Saturday, they were among the hundreds who demonstrated before the commencement ceremonies.

As the seven undocumented students and four other walkers left southwest Detroit's Clark Park, Jose Franco, a 22-year-old Detroit resident, literally wore his status on his T-shirt. It was emblazoned with the word "undocumented."

Brought by his mother to the United States from Mexico when he was 2, he has known no other country. He went to Detroit schools but says in high school he quit trying when he learned what being undocumented meant: Not having the papers and social security number needed for some university applications equaled no future in his mind.

"At the time, I didn't think I could even go to college," he says.

But then he learned about the DREAM Act — the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. That's the bipartisan federal legislation that's been introduced in Congress five times, including this session. It would provide a path to citizenship for some young adults who came here undocumented — they prefer that term to the "illegal alien" label the anti-immigration lobby puts on them.

The act, which was supported by candidate Obama, is stalled in committee, but calls for its passage are growing from some quarters — including the group that made the 50-mile hike to Ann Arbor.

They completed their journey Saturday morning and met up with busloads of supporters from Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids, says Sam Nawrocki, one of the march's organizers from pro-immigration reform group One Michigan.

Albino Gutierrez, manager of Ez La Raza Radio, WHPR-FM 88.1 and WNZK-AM 680, walked with the group and did live updates.

Nawrocki, who drove a support vehicle, says the group gained support during the walk. "We had random people coming in cars, giving fruit — oranges, bananas. One man stopped and asked, 'What are you doing?' He came back with Gatorade," she says. "Having the community support really showed the point of getting the DREAM Act."

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or

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