Blog of Rights

Standing up for my American DREAM

By Leen Nour El-Zayat at 10:06am

I am challenging Michigan’s attempt to keep me and other DREAMers from getting driver’s licenses. The ACLU, along with a coalition of civil rights organizations, filed a lawsuit today on behalf of DREAMers like me who are eligible to get driver’s licenses under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.

Ever since I came to this country as an eight-year-old child, I have been raised just like any other young American. My family left Lebanon for the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1999 to secure their personal safety and a short time later, my parents were faced with another conflict and had to make the difficult decision to come here to avoid the war and danger unraveling around us. My father thought of his family’s safety first, so that we could live in a place where we could be safe and pursue our dreams. He knew this was the country where we could live out our dreams by going to school, working hard and contributing to our community.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a doctor. As a child, I ran around acting like a doctor, telling my mother how I wanted to save lives and help families need. I don’t remember a Halloween where I didn’t ask for a doctor costume. I looked forward to career day at school so I could flaunt my ambitious dreams.

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But as I grew up, I started realizing the restrictions I had to live with. When I was a high school sophomore, I watched my classmates get their driver’s licenses and jobs, and come and go as they pleased. Questions started to loosen in my mind about not only the present, but also the bright future I had been looking forward to my whole life. How was I going to able to go to college? How would I attend class if there was no ride available for me? How could I afford the costs of college without any financial aid?

I thank God every day for giving me such a supportive family who has provided me the rides I need, and made sacrifices so that I can take college classes and pursue my dreams. When I learned about DACA, and received my approval letter, I began to have hope again – hope that I could help my family with bills, take some responsibilities off my parents’ shoulders, and serve as a role model for my younger siblings.

But my dreams were crushed again when I learned that I could not get a driver’s license in Michigan. I can finally get a job, but how am I going to get to and from work? All I can do is hope that one day this problem will be taken care of, so that everyone who had to face hardships like I did would be able to live like any other American. Like most Americans, I just want to be able to drive so I can go to school, work, support my family and continue building my life here. Giving driver’s licenses to people like me would not only help us and other families, but also our communities and the country as a whole.

Let Michigan’s politicians know that you stand with the DREAMers and send them a tweet.

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