By Farhat Desai | Contributing Writer 

Artist Shepard Fairey shows his support of the DREAM Act with his poster. (Courtesy of Shepard Fairey)

Imagine being raised in one place your whole life. Your practice of cultural norms, customs, language, and even slang originate from one place. Your kinship and education are all nurtured in that same place, including all your memories and human experiences. You’d love to experience more, but you’re not allowed to travel. You’re hostage to that one country. Still, it is the best scenario because it is better than the situation you’d find yourself had your parents not left their country to come to the land of opportunity.

The land of opportunity then serves as your community, your bread and butter, and your source of hustle, comfort, pride, and joy.

Now imagine that being torn from you. You’ve been given six months. The decision to stay in the only country you’ve known is not in your hands. Your livelihood is potentially seized from you. You are in lingering anxiety of the unknown. You are in limbo. This internal suffering is what 800,000 individuals, referred to as the Dreamers, are experiencing.

On Sept. 5, 2017, President Trump revoked DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), an immigration policy that was established by the Obama administration. This act gave children who entered and remained in the United States without documentation the ability to receive a two year renewable permit to work and safety from deportation. The scare was present since the beginning of the Trump presidency, but Sept. 5 marked the commencement of a living nightmare: the potential of deportation.

A month ago, I received the honor to advocate for the Dream Act in Washington D.C. It was only a week-long project, but it changed my life. I witnessed the DACA youth leaders and allies coordinate sit-ins, converse with senators, hold press conferences, and express themselves through “ARTivism,” which is painting banners or making videos, in examples of profound activism to ensure the passing of a Clean Dream Act.

It was a full schedule of action—a reminder of how dire the situation is. It is easy to get lost in the world of Twitter news and an ocean of opinions and feelings on social media until you experience in real time the emotional stress, physical exhaustion, and nonstop activism of a trending hashtag event.

There were emotional moments as Dreamers shared their personal stories. During a sit-in, a few young adults expressed how difficult their daily survival has been in the only country they’ve known and loved. They cherish their American upbringing, but a simple lack of papers becomes a hindrance to many pleasures and processes that American citizens take for granted, from traveling to applying for scholarships. It was heartbreaking to witness certain GOP senators choosing not to come out of their office to listen to the Dreamers’ woes. It was apparent that excuses were made to avoid direct contact between the senators on the fence about the issue and the Dreamers.

It humbled me to my core to see even a small fraction of the DACA recipients campaign relentlessly for their communities since September. They are thousands of miles away from their families, going up and down the Capitol Hill in the unforgiving D.C. cold. To see a persistent, almost obstinate, amount of patience and strength in the activism is empowering. They continue to advocate until the policy becomes a law.

The undocumented youth don’t have control over the situation, but they have a say. Their combined voices echo loudly. It exemplifies courage and grace amidst their suffering, creating urgency for solidarity in their cause and ultimately our collective cause: a fight for equal rights.

Dreamers are not a monolith. They hail from all avenues of the American life. They carry the embellishments of their vibrant narratives, from Latino to Asian to African American to European. They are our friends, neighbors, classmates, co-workers, or future spouses. They come from diverse industries as business owners, lawyers, doctors, and entrepreneurs. Dreamers create job and wage growth, enriching the overall quality of the American culture. A collective deportation would mean a loss in billions of dollars in GDP and no substitute in the workforce for the aging American population.

As commendable under the difficult circumstances the success of Dreamers is, the good immigrant versus bad immigrant narrative is irrelevant. An ideal immigrant prototype does not exist. If you were born on this generous, God’s green earth, you may inhabit and build a life wherever you deem best. Your humanity is not defined by capital or by degrading terms, like “illegal” or “alien.”

The day when 800,000 individuals are detained and deported en masse due to the demise of DACA cannot even be fathomed. It is hard to conceive the chaos, the helplessness of these children, now adults, violently separated from their families, resorting to desperation of hiding in the woods or in somebody’s basement, in the fear of being persecuted.

Congress still needs to establish a bipartisan legislative fix, the Clean Dream Act. This will allow a clean path to citizenship, one that does not include a wall, agents, or detention camps. Each day, 122 DACA recipients lose their right to work. And on March 5, DACA as a program will come to an end, leaving Dreamers vulnerable to deportation. Simply as humans, it is our obligation to stand with the Dreamers.

Their dreams of belonging are intertwined with the American Dream, and the American Dream does not discriminate. The beauty of this vision is that one may be born in what society thinks of as the lowest stature; yet regardless of social class, he or she has equal opportunity to success and freedom. This is a call for a moral and urgent leadership. The opposition deems this unnecessary, but it’s a shame that in 2018, Americans, who have built the foundation of their lives since childhood and call this place home, still have to leave their families, jobs, and schooling to fight for equal rights. Lady Liberty weeps, as it’s the duty of this country that raised the Dreamers to finally console their fears and embrace their wholesome existence with open arms.

This article has 4 comments

  1. thank you for sharing this moving and insightful read! here’s to a #CleanDreamActNow !

  2. Thank you for publishing this timely and important piece. While so much of the rhetoric around Dreamers, and immigration in general, revolves around crime, the human side of this issue is intentionally disregarded. Thanks for reminding us to empathize.

  3. The good immigrant vs bad immigrant narrative is relevant. One can’t just dismiss that because of their feelings. If one wants to argue that some Dreamers should be granted a pathway to citizenship, because they have proven themselves to be good people (i.e have a job and have no criminal record aside from their illegal status) then that is a valid argument. What if a Dreamer has recently be convicted of a violent crime? Should they be given a pathway to citizenship?

  4. the writer’s chosen words are honest and beautiful. we must act in great compassion for the dreamers. thank you for posting such a brave and honest piece.

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