By Justin A. Rice
Danny Sanchez marched from the State House with more than 100 members of the Student Immigration Movement on Monday night to hold a vigil at the JFK Federal Building. The protesters were lobbying Sen. Scott Brown to back the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.
“Unfortunately [Brown] waited until the night before the vote to say he was against the DREAM Act,” Sanchez said, referring to the measure that failed in the Senate on Tuesday. “After the vigil, after we knew we didn’t have his vote in our favor I saw people cry because we had put a lot of hopes into it.
“That was a big downer for our organization. It’s really disappointing for us but as an organization we have to face things and that’s one of the things we have to face. We’re going to keep fighting.”
A standout on the John D. O’Bryant’s soccer team, the junior with a 4.35 GPA scored six goals in three games last week. But while his coach says he’s skilled enough to fulfill his dream of playing at MIT or perhaps even Boston College, Sanchez’s options are limited since he is an undocumented alien.
The so-called DREAM Act would allow some undocumented immigrants to qualify for conditional permanent residency if they graduate from a two-year community college, complete at least two years toward a four-year degree or serve two years in the U.S. military, within a six-year period.
Without the DREAM Act, which has to pass by November before it expires, students like Sanchez can’t apply for financial aid or scholarships. Private universities can fund whomever they want, but after graduation those students still can’t work here.
“Our society needs it, even the people who don’t support it,” Sanchez said when asked if he needs the DREAM Act to go to school.
The 17-year-old knows a lot of students at his school in his position.
“It’s so disappointing because you dedicate yourself your whole life to your education—I’m not going to say it’s a waste of time—all your efforts are put into going to college and then you realize you can’t go to college,” he said.
Sanchez hasn’t thought about what he’ll do if the DREAM Act doesn’t pass.
“So far it’s unpredictable,” he said. “I really don’t know. It’s tough when you think about it. Hopefully it’s going to pass and I’m going to be able to go to college.”
Three years ago Sanchez was walking home with his mother in his native Cojutepeque, El Salvador when he noticed a member of the notorious MS-13 gang pointing a silver gun in his direction.
“They have this thing when they point a gun at you that’s completely metal, like silver, that means they are going to make you join the gang,” said Sanchez, whose mother immediately sent him to live with his aunt in Boston. “It felt more safe here and everything but emotionally it was really tough to go through everything I’ve been through. I was so used to living with my mom and my dad. It made it hard.”
Back home Sanchez played on a regional soccer team and dreamed of playing for the national team like his brother. Two months after moving here he made a club team called the Bulldogs and was playing varsity as a freshman for O’Bryant the following school year.
“When I play soccer I forget all the things around me,” he said. “When I play I feel like I’m back there. Playing soccer is my passion. I play it, I concentrate and I forget about missing my family and all the problems I face. I forget about them.”
Even though he misses the level of soccer in his native country, Sanchez is grateful for the added resources American teams enjoy. But it’s still not easy making the transition from his current club teams—the Boston Blast and Boston Bolt—to his school team.
“Not everyone has the same level of skill,” O’Bryant coach Ian Doreian said. “Danny has great leadership in that he does bring along all the players on the team. Even though it’s hard to pass the ball when you know deep down that it’s not going to come back to you, you still have to make the right pass.”
Last week Sanchez collected a hat trick for the Tigers (3-1-1) against South Boston, including two free kick goals.
“As a ref said before our game yesterday, he has the best free kick he’s seen in Boston in 25 years,” Doreian said. “His free kicks are deadly from 30 yards. He’s ridiculously physical and nearly impossible to knock off the ball.”
After scoring about 11 goals as a freshman Sanchez only played sporadically as a sophomore. He injured his knee early in the season only to return to hurt his ankle within his first five minutes back on the field.
“I feel a lot better,” he said. “I’m happy I can play more than three games. That’s one of the reasons I’m doing well. I’m happy to be back playing the sport I love.”