On Tuesday, more than 500 students from across the country gathered in Washington, DC, to take part in the National DREAM Act Graduation Ceremony. Although only a symbolic ceremony, students from different countries and backgrounds stood as one in an effort to push Congress to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act).

From Orange County California to Capitol Hill, students came dressed in graduation attire with signs hanging around their necks reading, “Future Doctor,” “Future Engineer” and “I support the DREAM Act.” Yet for many, the graduation ceremony was bittersweet.

Yosub Jung, a high school graduate, spoke at the graduation about the need for policy that gives everyone the opportunity to succeed:

Today is one of the most meaningful days of my life. I feel that I have only been doing what I need to do to make my dreams come true. We act out of necessity. And like all of you I am driven by the hope that the DREAM Act will pass so that all students can pursue their dreams.

If there is anything that is different from me in the past it’s awareness of how much this country needs policy that gives equal opportunity for all people. I know there are fears—I have them as well. I know there are dangers—I have heard that story as well. But we must never give up—not for ourselves—not for the millions of students out there.

The DREAM Act would affect roughly 65,000 undocumented youth in the United States—youth who were brought to America as minors. The goal of the DREAM Act is to open doors to higher education for undocumented high school graduates and set them on a path towards eventual citizenship through college or the military.

Students affected by the DREAM Act represent a population of youth who have few outlets to turn to despite their educational and extracurricular potential. Of these undocumented students—who get good grades, serve their communities, and are otherwise considered to be “model citizens”—graduate from high school, many can not afford to go to college because they do not qualify for in-state tuition or financial aid.

Despite their attempts to “do the right thing,” our immigration system is so broken that many undocumented students have difficulties naturalizing. One such student, Prerna, said the process of “getting in line” and waiting is exactly the problem with our broken and backlogged system.

“Get in line!” I am told. This is quite ironic since “getting in line” is precisely what made me an “illegal alien.” I was brought here legally on an F-2 student visa from Fiji when I was 14 and was legally here until I graduated from high school and wanted to attend college. At 17, my parents helped me apply for an F-1 student visa so I could continue my studies, but unfortunately, in the aftermath of September 11, my student visa extension was rejected.

The DREAM Act remains another important step in the broader fight for comprehensive immigration reform—reform that would bring us closer to our values as a land of fairness and opportunity.