This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The immigrant community advocacy group JUNTOS has launched #Free2Dream, an online photo campaign in support of the Pennsylvania Dream Act.
#Free2Dream is an effort by youth advocates to raise awareness and support of the legislation, which would allow students access to in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities regardless of immigration status. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, nearly 140,000 Pennsylvanians are undocumented immigrants, including many college-aged students.
“One of the biggest barriers for someone who’s undocumented is that they’re charged as an out-of-state or international student. This can be [up to] three or four times the in-state amount,” said Miguel Andrade, the youth coordinator of JUNTOS and co-founder of Fuerza, the group’s youth committee.
#Free2Dream was launched with a photo shoot on Aug. 21 in the JUNTOS South Philadelphia offices, where “dreamers” and supporters gathered to give photo testimonials on why they believe the Dream Act should pass. The bill is in the state Education Committee awaiting further action.
Inspired by popular online efforts like “NOH8,” the photo-shoot participants donned a white shirt and had their picture taken with a white ribbon held across their mouths. The subject’s dream career was written on the ribbon in red ink, symbolizing the aspirations blocked by the obstacles to higher education that immigrant students often face.
#Free2Dream photos are uploaded with the hashtag “#Free2Dream” to a Tumblr account of the same name and shared across various social media outlets. JUNTOS members said the hope is that the pictures will help activists connect with similar-minded people across the state, as well as with elected officials in Harrisburg, and attach human faces to a complex issue in an accessible way.
Those who want to support the campaign can do so by visiting free2dreampa.tumblr.com. Follow the instructions for uploading your own photo testimonial.
“Everyone has a Facebook or Twitter [account], and a lot of people can [take pictures] at home without any fancy equipment,” said Arturo Sandoval, a Fuerza member and Furness High School student.
Andrade added, “#Free2Dream is a great way for people to start learning that we have a lot more in common than not.”