Saturday's Senate vote yielded the historic passing of a bill that will end the armed forces' polarizing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. However, the day was also low point for supporters of the DREAM Act, a measure which would have helped some illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children and have contributed to society earn citizenship.
The vote was especially disappointing for Ana Roa Arrázola, a student who bravely questioned President Barack Obama about the nation's frustratingly complex immigration process at MTV's October town hall, "A Conversation with President Obama." The commander in chief promised Arrázola, who entered the country legally but is unable to return to her native Colombia to visit her 92-year-old grandmother because of her immigrant status, that he would follow up with her. When MTV News caught up with her on Saturday, she revealed she that did visit the White House, but said Sunday's vote was demoralizing.
"I feel like the democrats put that in as like a collateral to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' So I feel like it was gonna be 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' or the DREAM Act. 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' had a lot of strength and a lot of support," she said. "I think it was just the right time for Don't Ask, Don't Tell and, unfortunately, that kind of left the DREAM Act in the dust, which is really sad and heartbreaking."
Arrázola said she and other immigrants eager to reconnect with loved ones for the holidays were hoping for an outcome that might have cleared up much of the red tape surrounding the immigration process.
"It's difficult because it's the holiday season, and it's a time for people to be cheery and be happy and find reasons to be happy," she said. "I think a lot of us were counting on the DREAM Act, kind of as a Christmas present to bring some hope for the new year."
Unlike many grappling with the immigration experience in America, Arrázola was able to visit the White House and speak directly to members of President Obama's administration. While her personal situation remains unchanged, she maintained that re-shaping the labyrinthine path to citizenship must begin with lawmakers.
"I did get a chance to go to the White House and I met with a few people there," she said. "I got to talk to them and they were like, 'Oh your story's great, we're so proud that you've gotten so far.' But at the same time there's nothing they can do. It's disappointing that there's nothing they can do but it makes sense because the United States wasn't built on [the idea] 'let's help one individual at a time.' They have to pass legislation."
Arrázola added that shaking up the status quo is not only in the hands of President Obama, and implored politicians to reach across party lines to pass life-changing legislation.
"I think [President Obama has] done a good job. What I would say — not to President Obama because he can only do so much — I feel like what I would say to all the Democrats that voted against the DREAM Act and all of the Republicans who refused to vote for this bill, [is that] it was initially a bipartisan initiative. It wasn't particularly a Democrat bill or a Republican bill. I would just tell them that normal people, everyday people are not living on a red or blue basis," she said. "We're mostly just trying to get going with our lives to be able to accomplish our goals to maybe even go back home and visit our families. We're not living in a partisan world where we just try to keep people who don't agree with us from getting things done."
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