First ‘Dreamer’ graduates from Delaware State University
By BROOKE SCHULTZ, Delaware State News
DOVER, Del., Dec. 22, 2019 (AP): When Dulce Guerrero
accepted her diploma during Delaware State University's
commencement Saturday (Dec. 14), 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
(Dec. 13), 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
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
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.
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
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
``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.''