First ‘Dreamer’ graduates from Delaware State University

‘Dreamer’ Dulce Guerrero, in middle, poses with, from left, DSU Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Devona E. G. Williams, DSU President Dr. Wilma Mishoe, U.S. Senator Chris Coons and DSU Vice President and Provost Dr. Tony Allen before the start of Delaware State University December Commencement in Dover on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — When Dulce Guerrero accepted her diploma during Delaware State University’s commencement Saturday, she reached a milestone.

“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to. It’s something that I had to put on hold for five years, because of the barriers that existed in the state of Georgia,” she said Friday, her last day as an undergraduate. “It feels like a sense of accomplishment to finally reach this milestone and say — we’ve been able to do it, despite the hardship, despite all the obstacles that we face. We’re finally here and it’s graduation day.”

Ms. Guerrero’s story is a bit different than her December 2019 cohort — she was born in Mexico, and came to the U.S. when she was 3 as an undocumented immigrant. When she accepted her diploma Saturday, she was the first Dreamer to graduate from DSU, as part of Delaware State University’s Opportunity Scholarship Program.

With TheDream.US, DSU’s program provides full scholarships to undocumented students who excel academically in high school, but, due to their immigration status, are unable to pursue higher education in the states they grew up in.

‘Dreamer’ Dulce Guerrero, left, has a selfie taken with Dr. Vita Pickrum before the start of Delaware State University December Commencement in Dover on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Ms. Guerrero grew up in Georgia. As she came up on high school graduation in 2011 and began looking at her options for college, she said that she learned she was unable to apply to the top five schools in Georgia. For the other universities, she would have to pay out-of-state tuition — a significant barrier to pursuing her education.

She put her hopes for college on hold, and became politically involved in Georgia, she said.

She said that she worked with nonprofits locally that fought for tuition equity, and was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the University System of Georgia.

“After graduating high school, I started doing a lot of immigration-related work around deportation defense, and doing work in different nonprofits around the immigration field,” she said. “That’s when I realized that I wanted to be able to major in political science when I got the opportunity to come back to college. So when I got the scholarship, I knew right away that I wanted to major in poli sci.”

When DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — rolled out under the Obama administration in 2012, Ms. Guerrero had an avenue to pursue higher education.

After consulting with an immigration attorney, she found that she qualified for DACA and applied the following year.

“I was able to drive for the first time legally in the United States, I was able to find employment where I knew that I was going to receive minimum wage,” she said. “That’s something that’s not guaranteed when you’re undocumented. When you’re undocumented, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to be paid minimum wage, that you’re not going to be overworked, underpaid, or exploited at work.”

And it gave her the ability to apply to TheDream.US.

Through the scholarship, there were a few options for schools.

“I chose Delaware State because I had never been to Delaware, I’d never studied here and because it was an [Historically Black College and University], it’s something that drew my attention towards choosing the university,” she said.

She enrolled in 2016, five years after graduating high school. She completed her degree early, graduating a semester before the first class of about 34 DSU Dreamers will accept their diplomas in May 2020.

In school, Ms. Guerrero remained involved politically as she had in Georgia. When DACA was rescinded, the Dreamers on campus were worried about what would happen, she said.

“We started this advocacy team where we were able to travel to Washington D.C. and we met with over 250 members of Congress,” she said. “We had meetings, I would say, weekly. We had several trips, and we would take a group of students to share their stories and to advocate for bipartisan legislation to be able to legalize the Dreamers.”

While being politically active outside of the classroom, Ms. Guerrero said that she took on a heavier course-load and, during her summers, interned at different organizations in Texas that addressed immigration.

Her internships with Texas American Federation of Labor, a state labor federation that helped union members become citizens, and Grassroots, which helped women who were seeking asylum at the border, reinforced what she wanted to pursue post-grad, she said.

“I’ve done a lot of work with nonprofits around immigration work. It’s an issue that affects our families every day. I think that definitely seeing the need in the community and seeing that there are a lot of different injustices, especially living in the south as an undocumented person, drew my attention to trying to help people in my situation or in similar situations,” she said. “Thanks to a lot of that background work and a lot of the experience that I gained working at nonprofits and doing a lot of advocacy work, that really inspired me to come back to college to be able to major in political science and continuing opening doors to be able to help my community.”

Ms. Guerrero is in the process of looking for employment, to help her achieve her goal of attending law school to become an immigration attorney.

“I think that my family being an undocumented family living in the south, there’s always been a lot of obstacles they’ve had to face but I’ve never seen them not face the obstacles or not try to find different solutions to whatever issues there are,” she said. “I think that that type of energy and that type of enthusiasm has always been very contagious in my family.”

Facebook Comment