There are so many places from which to begin this story. Where does any movement begin? Does it begin when a particular leader stands up, or when the problem that made them do so first arose? Does it begin with the passage of a law, or is it written from the beginning, like genetic code, in the foundations of a country?

History was made in D.C.: undocumented students stepped out of the shadows before a national audience. They now have a movement to lead.

For too long, undocumented immigrants have been spoken of as a faceless monolith—or worse, a statistic. And the powers that be want it this way; immigrants’ opponents can say their worst without fear of shame and those who claim to be the ally of the immigrant can do nothing without facing repercussions. But by showing the nation that arrests will no longer keep immigrants silent, that they are “undocumented and unafraid,” they have changed the issue forever.

Over three days, students marched; they visited legislators; they graduated from “DREAM University,” which had been taking place near the Capitol for several days. Here in a church they sat listening to leaders from different organizations including the College Board, America’s Voice and even Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), the author of the DREAM Act. But more importantly, they heard from their fellow DREAMers, including our own Rosario (pictures to come).

I could be deported at any moment. Everything could be taken away from me, including the chance to be near my daughter, who is an American citizen.
I have remained silent for too long; I am tired of living in fear. Silence is no longer an option.

After the ceremony, everyone marched to the Capitol and by the Senate offices. Press walked along the way, pulling students (often by the arm) out of the march to ask them questions. They told them their full names and their aspirations.

“I want to be an engineer, but I can’t,” José, a member of the DREAM Team, said to a reporter. “We’re here to show them we can’t wait any longer.”

As we passed the Senate offices, staffers came out to see the blocks-long queue. Some, amazingly, chanted along with us. But then, as we looked closer (with the aid of a newly acquired zoom lens), we noticed we had won a very important supporter:

That’s Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), but he’s much more than that. In another life he was the chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, a powerful student group that fought against segregation.
One movement, from another time, reached out to another. At that moment, we all felt the weight of history on our shoulders.

On this blog, we have said before that the leaders of this movement see themselves as part of an American tradition of fighting for their rights. Nothing could have affirmed that more than this.

Everyone knows what came next, because it is already national news. But tomorrow, we will share with you only what we can.

Read part two here.

Photos by Justin Valas