When two bullets tore into Texas A&M student Jose Luis Zelaya's arms, he was only 13 but had seen more than a lifetime's share of anguish. In a dirty, rundown motel room in Guatemala, the Honduran native recalls praying for a life free from violence, poverty and his abusive, alcoholic father.
A decade later, Zelaya blends in at Texas A&M. You can see him swaying to the ggie
War Hymn at Kyle Field, or showing off his Aggie Ring. He's different in just one way: He's in the U.S illegally, one of some 300 undocumented Aggies and 12,000 students in the Lone Star State.
And as statewide efforts are under way to deny them in-state tuition rates -- which,
for many, would be the death knell to their education since they can't legally receive financial aid -- 10 from across the state gathered Friday at Texas A&M, slipping from the shadows for a "coming out" rally and advocating for the federal DREAM Act.
"I'm not an illegal alien. I'm not a rapist. I'm not a thief," said Zelaya, a senior in the College of Education. "I just want to serve my community by giving back for what it has given to me."
It was a risky event, as arrest for the students could mean deportation. Zelaya said he would have been devastated if his fellow Aggies would have reported the event.
But even if he knew speaking at the rally meant deportation, he said before the event, he still would do so.
"If we have to sacrifice ourselves so that this helps someone in the long run, it will be worth it," said Zelaya, 24. "Someone had to suffer so I can have the benefits I have now. We're no longer afraid, we're no longer ashamed, and we're tired of living in the
It is as if someone accused him of being a rapist or a thief. In fact he is not even being accused of being an illegal alien. No one has arrested and charged him with anything, despite the fact that he is an illegal alien.
Then we get assorted whining about various hardships, most of which is irrelevant to the meme that we are treating these illegal aliens by not forgiving their misdeads as criminals. And they lie about it:
About 150 people gathered in front of the Sul Ross statue in the Academic Plaza, gripping signs and banners that read, "It's time for Justice," "America is our home" and "Undocumented and Unafraid," the latter a rallying cry that the crowd burst into several times during the 90-minute rally.
"I touched no water. I crossed no border. I walked no desert. I was carried," said
Oscar Hernandez, 23, a Houston Community College student.
Thailandia Alaffita, who graduated from Texas A&M in December with an English degree, decided to attend the rally after a similar protest rally in Georgia by undocumented youth. She wants to be a 7th grade English teacher, but can't legally work in the U.S.
A handful of Texas A&M students who didn't support the students were interspersed in the crowd. The event was peaceful.
Nicole Heath, a sophomore agricultura communication major, held a sign that said, "Welcome to Aggieland, where it's OK to break the law and brag about it."
"I don't appreciate them coming out and being unapologetic about breaking the law," she said.
Zelaya, wearing a pinstriped suit, stepped to the microphone last and cried, shouted and pounded the podium as he told his story.
When he was 5, his little brother died of asthma, driving his dad to alcoholism and abuse, he said. At age 11, Hurricane Mitch ravaged Honduras and destroyed the family's shack. And on the day he was caught in a drive-by shooting, he was just playing soccer, a popular pastime in the Central American country.
A couple of years before the shooting, Zelaya, his sister and his mom tried to escape Zelaya's father, but he found out and stopped it.
Eventually, his mom convinced him to allow her and Zelaya's sister to leave. They made their way to America. Zelaya stayed.
He said his grandmother always told him never to give up on the American dream. He envisioned Disneyland and Mickey Mouse when thinking of the magical land up north, where hard work paid off. But when he made the decision to leave Honduras, he mostly just wanted to see his mom and sister.
He realizes much fighting remains before he can achieve his goal of being able to live and work in the U.S. Right now, even after he graduates, he can't legally work.
He's doing battle on several fronts. He is an advocate of the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to permanent residency for students like him who meet certain criteria, such as being in the country for five years before the legislation is enacted and completing two years of military service or time at a higher-education institution.
"I don't want to give back to another country," Zelaya said. "I want to give it to the country that has given it to me. The only country that has shown me love, acceptance and protection is this country."
On defense, he testified before the Texas House last month against a series of bills aimed at taking away in-state tuition rates for undocumented students.
And of least consequence, but closest to home, he's fought the Texas A&M student senate's efforts to make opposition to in-state tuition for students here illegally the official Aggie student position. The senate passed two such bills, efforts that were spearheaded by Justin Pulliam, head of the Texas Aggie Conservatives, but they were both vetoed by the student body president.
"I want Justin to know that I love him, and I respect him, and I admire him for his consistency," Zelaya said. "But I believe unless you are in somebody else's shoes, you will not be able to understand. He doesn't know what it's like to be undocumented. He doesn't know what it is to have to escape your country. He's never had to live in extreme poverty where going north is the only option."
Zelaya was speaking with a reporter after his impassioned speech as the rally came to a close. "There's one more thing I need to do," he said as he stepped back toward the stage.
He requested the crowd's attention, and sparked a performance of the Aggie War Hymn by whistling the first part.
In most cases they aren't criminals, just run of the mill illegal aliens that should be deported, as if deportation is a punishment. They aren't going to be deported according to Obama, much less jailed. Between the lies and the arrogance, one would think that ICE is beating down their doors, rather than ignoring their status.