Putting it in Perspective: DREAM Students Ask “Now What?”
Posted by Susannah Glick on Tue, Aug 09, 2011 at 9:56 am
When I think back to my earliest memories, I recall birthdays, Hanukah celebrations, and school plays from primary school. Everything before second grade seems to only exist in the memories and stories of my parents and relatives. Millions of young adults entered the U.S. during this gray area of their lives and their earliest memories are of life in America. These individuals were brought here at a young age by their parents who wanted them to have a better life. Like me, these students call America their home and have grown up surrounded by its culture and have fully integrated into its society. I grew up watching the same television programming as them, taking the same AP classes in high school, and being involved in the same extracurricular activities. These students may have sat next to me in class, challenged my team on the sports field, or lived in my college dorm. These students are the 2.4 million DREAMers (undocumented immigrant students) across the nation, many of whom fear deportation. Their futures are being diminished before they even begin.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act (S.952) is a piece of legislation which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented young adults brought into the United States as children who demonstrate good character and have completed at least two years of college or military service. As stated in my previous blog post, legislators and Americans alike cannot ignore the individuals who are personally affected by our nation’s immigration reform legislation. Further, what I find most admirable about the DREAM Act is sponsor Senator Dick Durbin’s (D-IL) encouragement for DREAMers to speak up and become the faces of this legislation. On June 27, I was fortunate enough to attend a DREAM Act Mock Graduation event on Capitol Hill sponsored by the United We Dream Coalition. The event commenced with esteemed DREAMers sharing their common tale: coming to America at a young age, prospering in academics, building goals and aspirations, and now facing deportation to a country that has little to no relevance in their lives. Following the speakers, I marched with hundreds of DREAMers from Capitol Hill to the White House where they staged a protest. Seeing them in their high school graduation garb holding signs with powerful messages and taking turns addressing the crowd with a mega-phone was one of the most inspiring scenes I have ever been fortunate enough to witness.
Before that day, I understood that DREAMers were students just like me and my friends, but I learned that day that they are much more than students. They are fearless leaders. They are fighting to achieve their dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers, and teachers. It baffles me why young adults with such initiative, passion, determination, leadership, and potential would be forced to leave this country.
When first researching the DREAM Act a few weeks ago I came across an image early in my search that immediately caught my attention. The photograph depicted several DREAMers in their caps and gowns wearing signs around their necks that asked one simple and yet extremely important question: “Now what?” In our daily routines we often ask this question when we have intercepted a problem in need of a solution. This question was one which my peers and I asked ourselves during our senior year of high school but we had the answers; college, military service, employment. However, for many DREAMers this question has no answer as undocumented immigrants are not eligible for military service and are increasingly being rejected by colleges and employers as state legislators are creating bills which mandate citizenship status to be required in admissions for public universities.
So, I ask on behalf of the DREAMers “Now what?” Do you have any answers for them? The only answer I have is the passage of the DREAM Act. Without the passage of this vital piece of legislation, thousands of students - whose earliest memories are most likely from their current lives in the United States - will continue to be deported to countries they haven’t been to since before they can remember. “Now what?” should not be a question these students dread to ask themselves but one which yields limitless and exciting answers. If I cannot imagine being deported from my family, friends, school, and dreams then they should not have to either. Please join me in urging Congress to pass the DREAM Act so that we can finally give DREAMers an answer.