Gaby Pacheco, Felipe Matos, Juan Rodriguez & Carlos Roa: Miami, FL

Students who walked 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington, DC to tell the story of undocumented youth

When progress toward immigration reform stalled in 2009, four young people from Miami, FL, two of whom (Juan and Felipe) are openly gay, decided that it was time to take dramatic action. They would walk 1500 miles to Washington DC to dramatize the barriers facing undocumented students and their family. Along the way, they would share their stories with “regular people” throughout the Southeast and give and receive encouragement from thousands of other immigrants struggling for a future.

Gaby Pacheco, Juan Rodriguez, Felipe Matos, and Carlos Roa began walking 15-20 miles a day with little more than faith and determination. They pushed their bodies to the extreme and faced the threat of detention and deportation every day. Yet, they were also met by the love and generosity of grassroots supporters—faith leaders, farm workers, immigrant families, and fellow students— who walked by their sides and gave them three meals a day and a place to lay their heads at night.

In Georgia, the walkers’ humanity was a stark contrast to Ku Klux Klan members rallying against “the Latino Invasion.” They passed through many Southeastern counties in which immigrants must live with crushing fear and hatred, wearing T-shirts proudly proclaiming themselves to be “Undocumented.” When confronted by anti-immigrant opponents, they spoke to them directly and were able to change many minds about who immigrants are.

By the time they reached Washington, the Trail of DREAMs walkers had gained 60,000 online and text followers, been covered widely by English and Spanish press, and had sparked solidarity marches around the country. The four-month odyssey was instrumental in moving the President to speak out on behalf of the DREAM Act, and to the House of Representatives passing of the DREAM Act in December 2010.

Gaby Pacheco, Juan Rodriguez, Felipe Matos, and Carlos Roa faced intense fears and hardships on the Trail but, with each step, gained the courage to move forward despite them. Today, the four Trail of DREAMs walkers continue to inspire people around the country through their leadership and humanity.

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The Freedom From Fear Awards are produced by Public Interest Projects, (PIP).  PIP is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that brings together and strengthens the work of philanthropic institutions, donors, nonprofit groups and other public interest organizations sharing a vision of a society that ensures justice, dignity and opportunity for all people.   Statements and activities of Freedom from Fear Award winners do not necessarily reflect the views of PIP.

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