The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act) lost a Congressional vote in late 2010. It would have provided a path to citizenship for young undocumented people who came into the US before the age of 16, are under 30, have ‘good moral character’ and have resided in the US for 5 consecutive years if they finish two years of college or the military and meet other requirements.
The DREAM Act was never the end goal. In our hands, it was a tool. It was a tool of hope, for those of us who look towards the future and see that those paths we thought we could walk down are not open to us. It was a tool that would have allowed thousands of young people to say they were undocumented with out fear of deportation or losing their jobs. It was a tool to push the issues of undocumented immigrants farther in the government’s agenda than they had ever gone in over 20 years.
But because it is a tool not made by us — undocumented youth — and a tool made for Congress, it is an imperfect tool. Whether or not people agree with the specifics of it, what is clear to me is that the commitment of young undocumented people to fight for the rights of all immigrants has not and will not waver. It is also clear to me that even though we could not get the DREAM Act, not yet anyway, we won something much greater and useful than a bill.
We formed a stronger movement, filled with people coming out as undocumented and challenging immigration laws, authorities and stereotypes whenever needed; people willing to get arrested for our beliefs and risk deportation. People continue to do the work necessary to educate the public, create resources for undocumented communities-resources in jobs, in scholarships, even in traveling within the US, and boldly assert our rights as part of this nation and our right to change it for the better living of all.
As much as I would love to write that the solution is to create alternative systems to education and jobs, alternatives that do not require a social security number, and that we need not be constrained by the laws and rules of society as they exist, I know the reality of fearing the deportation of the ones you love even for a minor traffic violation. I know the reality of talking to students who want to be teachers and doctors and know they could never get a license to practice these, or even a driver’s license for that matter. These immigration laws are real and they are suffocating all of our society. When young people lose motivation to study because they know they cannot get federal aid for college, or a job in their chosen field, as a society we hurt our present and future. When people can be scared into not fighting for their rights at a workplace all the workers lose out.
We must not just imagine and create a different path to learning, working and interacting with each other, but we have to make sure we address and rewrite the old laws, old paths, old guidelines or requirements that are keeping about 11 million residents from contributing and living fully in this country. I believe that is what we, the people of the undocumented youth movement, have been doing and will continue to do.
Yeah, it would have been nice to win the DREAM Act this time around, but it is by no means the only resource we have, nor is it the only thing we are after. The world belongs to all of us, all living creatures and ecosystems, and we are not about to give that up.
For more information and to join us go to www.iyjl.org and/or www.dreamactivist.org/