First lady Jill Biden told young undocumented immigrant graduates during a commencement speech this week that she feels “inspired” by them, saying that while the road ahead “will be both heartbreaking and hopeful,” she believed “the inner strength that got you here will serve you well,” the Associated Press (AP) reported.
The first lady made the remarks during a virtual commencement ceremony organized by TheDream.US, which has awarded college scholarships to thousands of undocumented immigrant youth across the nation. The organization said in a statement received by Daily Kos that 1,000 TheDream.US scholars across nearly 80 partner colleges were invited to be a part of the event.
“Graduations are special for everyone,” TheDream.US quoted Biden as saying. “I hope that for you, this celebration is sweeter because so many of your challenges have been greater.” The first lady said that graduates “didn’t just receive an education. You worked for it. You fought for it. So I know you’ll value it and put it to good use.” Others speaking Thursday included Kevin Ortiz, who came to the United States from Mexico at age 12 and told graduates that the “world needs your perspective, your leadership. So lead,” the AP said.
Their speeches came just after six Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients met with President Joe Biden at the White House to share their stories and continue pressing for permanent legislative relief for undocumented communities. While the administration has announced a federal rule protecting DACA, The Washington Post reported that the young immigrants “spoke candidly to Biden about their concerns,” including the Texas court that yet again threatens the policy.
The AP reported that during her speech, the first lady reiterated the president’s commitment to passing permanent legislative relief. “We know you have so much to contribute to this nation in the days ahead,” she said according to the AP. “That’s why the president is working to build an immigration policy that creates better pathways to citizenship for students like you.”
Biden also said many of her students at Northern Virginia Community College are immigrants, who she said have shared with her “their journeys and their challenges, experiences that I’m guessing will sound familiar to a lot of you,” the report continued. “I’m inspired because they arrive in my class filled with optimism and hope.”
TheDream.US leader Gaby Pacheco told graduates “don’t ever stop asking for help,” the organization tweeted. “We are not islands unto ourselves, everyone must rely on each other to survive. We are a beautiful community.” The organization tweeted that “[w]e have every confidence our Scholars will play a vital role in helping move our country forward. Thank you for sharing your beauty, your pride, and your resilience in making the world a better place.”
TheDream.US awarded $30 million in scholarships to undocumented youth in fall 2017, the same time the previous administration moved to end the popular and successful DACA program. Due to their immigration status, federal tuition assistance is unaccessible to undocumented immigrant youth, oftentimes making a higher education impossible to reach. But thanks to efforts like those from TheDream.US, more and more young people have been able to reach for their dreams.
“We know you have so much to contribute to this nation in the days ahead,” Huff Post reports the first lady said. “We stand with you. Never stop dreaming.”