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X-Country Dream Act Trek For Undocumented Students Sets Off From Bay Area

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Three undocumented students leading a group of people across the Golden Gate Bridge to kick off a cross-country march in support of the Dream Act.

Three undocumented students leading a group of people across the Golden Gate Bridge to kick off a cross-country march in support of the Dream Act.

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Three undocumented immigrant college students led a group of people across the Golden Gate Bridge Saturday afternoon to kick off a  cross-country march to Washington, D.C. in support of the Development, Relief  and Education for Alien Minors Act, also known as the Dream Act.

The three students and one ally student, who is the first  American-born citizen in her family, are set to travel some 3,000 miles and  visit 285 cities and towns nationwide to educate people about the DREAM Act,  which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented college students.

Backed by various immigrants’ rights groups, the marchers call  their journey the “Campaign for the American Dream” and expect to reach the  capitol in October just before the presidential election, according to John  Rodney, a spokesman for the California Immigrant Policy Center.

Saturday afternoon, the four students were joined by staff members  from immigrants’ rights groups and about 20 local supporters, including  students from the University of California at Berkeley and City College San  Francisco.

Chants of “Education, not deportation!” and “Dreamers united will  never be divided!” echoed as the group made its way to the Presidio shortly  after 1 p.m.

Lucas Da Silva, 23, one of the undocumented students leading the  march, said he felt a mix of excitement and nerves as he took his first steps  toward Washington, D.C. Saturday.

Da Silva’s parents brought him to the United States from Brazil on  a tourist visa when he was a year old.

The 23-year-old vividly remembers a high school guidance counselor  informing him that he would never be accepted to an American college and  should look for work picking fruit.

“After that I remember seeing my graduating class and holding back  tears, knowing my friends would go on…to colleges,” he recalled.

Da Silva later learned that he could attend college in his home  state of Florida, he said.

He now studies Political Science at Valencia College in Orlando  where he got involved with immigrants’ rights campaigns.

Although the student said he and his fellow marchers expect to  encounter some resistance along the nationwide trek, remembering the stakes  involved for him and other undocumented immigrant students keeps him  motivated.

“We can only be prepared for so much,” he said. “The biggest thing  is sending a message of hope and inspiration to those youth who are out there  - undocumented youth…who don’t know if they’re going to be able to go to  college or contribute to society and are in limbo.”

He said he hopes to create “productive dialogue” with those he  encounters over the next several months and to provide information about  immigration reform.

“We want to educate those who are opposed and those who might not  even know about the DREAM Act and why it’s not just a Latino issue or an  Asian-American issue — it’s a United States of America issue.”

The marchers are set to gather at 5:30 p.m. in UC Berkeley’s  Sproul Plaza with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who  himself is an illegal immigrant and a vocal supporter of the DREAM Act.

Rodney said the marchers’ next scheduled stop is in the town of  Crockett.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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