Activist Maria Gabriela Pacheco is a prominent figure in the national immigrant rights movement and is currently the program director of TheDream.US, a national organization that provides higher education fellowship opportunities for undocumented immigrants. Pacheco is a leading advocate for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform that would assist the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. She is also a staunch advocate for legislative reform that would provide higher education access to thousands of undocumented youths. Originally from Guayaquil, Ecuador, Pacheco moved with her family to the Miami area at the age of 8. During her high school years, she began to organize politically in order to shed light on the social injustices faced by undocumented immigrants in the U.S. She has gained national recognition for her courageous advocacy of the DREAM Act, legislative reform that would provide residency status to undocumented immigrants aspiring to attend college.
As a DREAMer herself, Pacheco has brought awareness to the marginalization of other young undocumented immigrants in the Miami community who were unable to attend college based on their status. After realizing she was just one of hundreds of undocumented students in her community, Pacheco founded the Florida immigrant youth network in 2005, known as Students Working for Equal Rights, as part of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. She was elected student government president at Miami Dade College, and later statewide student body president. During this time, she raised the issue of in-state tuition for undocumented students throughout Florida, which led to political change and a climate of acceptance in many community and state colleges.
In 2005, with three other undocumented students, Pacheco led the national “Trail of Dreams,” a four-month-long campaign walk from Miami to the nation’s capital. The campaign sought to raise awareness of the human rights issues concerning undocumented immigrants, such as halting the deportation of thousands of immigrants, access to higher education for undocumented youth, and the passage of the DREAM Act. Prior to her current position at TheDream.US, Pacheco was the director of the Bridge Project, with the mission to connect individuals from across the political spectrum to achieve comprehensive immigration reform. As political director for the national youth group United We Dream, she spearheaded efforts in 2012 that led President Obama to announce the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), one of the biggest changes to immigration policy since the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. In 2013, Pacheco became the first undocumented Latina to testify before Congress regarding the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill, and her compelling testimony provided a critical narrative of the plight facing millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
Sponsored by the Gender and Women’s Studies Department, the Dresher Center for the Humanities, and the Latino/Hispanic Faculty Association.
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