A picture can say a lot, but not everything.

For Senator Hagan, this may have been a fairly routine meet-and-greet gone awry. For us, it was an unforgettable moment—one where we knew for sure that Hagan would hear the voices of three women who came out of the shadows and challenged the very power that holds their life in an untenable limbo.

But today began much earlier. The picture above is actually the second time Loida tried to speak to Senator Hagan today—not the first. The moment captured here was one that was almost denied.

Earlier this morning, Hagan gave a speech on education to the organization Action for Children at the Alumni Center of UNC-Chapel Hill. On her way in, she encountered roughly two-dozen DREAM Act supporters with signs (pictures to come). After shaking her hand on the way in, we waited for her exit.

Loida, Rosario and Viridiana had hardly a minute to speak to Hagan as she left the Alumni Center. Without any promise of a meeting, feelings were low and quickly gave way to sadness and frustration. The injustice felt heaviest in that moment—that a person could look in the faces of three people whose fate they held in their hand and simply toss it away.

One of her staff chuckled when the three tried to explain their hunger strike, breaking from the trained cordiality of the legislator. The three held back tears.

“Muchas gracias,” Hagan said as she walked to her car.

As hard as the feelings may have been, we gathered ourselves and prepared to see her again—and this time she couldn’t simply walk away.

Not only did we follow her to her office hours at the Seymour Center, but local allies like El Pueblo were also there ready to press Hagan on the DREAM Act. Carla Mena, a student activist from Meredith College, was among several other DREAM Act supporters there to speak to Hagan that was ending a 1.5million-second fast (over two weeks) which represents the 1.5 million students who would benefit from the DREAM Act nationwide.

“I believe the DREAM Act should be considered in the context of comprehensive immigration reform,” Hagan is quoted as saying in an e-mailed statement in the . “I strongly believe that the United States must take the necessary steps to fix the way we handle illegal immigration, and I am committed to achieving practical, bipartisan, comprehensive reform that will protect taxpayers and address the problem of illegal immigration at its core.”

So what, then, is “comprehensive immigration reform” and does it include the DREAM Act?

Her response to the latter half of the question was regrettably simple: “that’s a good question.”

To her credit, the Democratic Party is having a hard time figuring that out on its own, not to mention the added complication of rivalry among its leadership on the issue. Tragically, millions of lives hang in the balance.

Hagan needs to take a stand. While it may be easy to wait for the Democratic leadership to sort it out and then fall in line, any “comprehensive” bill will be labeled an “amnesty” just like “comprehensive” health care reform was labeled a “government takeover.” By signing on, Hagan could become the fortieth co-sponsor (Sen. Kennedy has passed), achieving a major milestone and gaining momentum for the bill.

We hope that she makes the right decision and puts her compassion before her politics. In this struggle, as in so many lives, it could make all the difference.

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