Dreams Begin with DREAMers

What happens to a Dream Deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes


An Everyday Ambassador is someone who understands (and continually strives to understand) the intricacies of what connects us all as human beings, no matter where we’re from, and despite our different life circumstances. That being said, Everyday Ambassadors also recognize the power of differing perspectives brought by those native to their country, and those who immigrated. There has been a lot of information (and unfortunately, misinformation) spreading about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (aka DACA), so we want to set the record straight. We will break down who a DREAMer is, what DACA means, and how these DREAMers affect America.


What, or Who, is a DREAMer?

Obama meets with DREAMers.
Barack Obama meets with young DREAMers on February 4, 2015. (Official White House Photo: Pete Souza)

Ranging in age from 15 – 36, the DREAMers are recipients of the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (DACA) program instituted during the Obama administration. Why DREAMers?

The Daca program was a compromise devised by the Obama administration after Congress failed to pass the so-called Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (Dream) Act, which would have offered those who had arrived illegally as children the chance of permanent legal residency. The bipartisan act was first introduced in 2001 and has repeatedly failed to pass. (The Guardian)

A lot of eligible DREAMers were unaware of their immigration status until they attempted to do very basic things, such as obtaining a driver’s license or applying for federal student aid without a social security number. However, this doesn’t stop them from working hard in America in order to continue to call this country home. DREAMers, under DACA, were even able to apply for something called Advanced Travel Parole, which allows them to apply for special visas to travel for such purposes as volunteering abroad and study abroad programs.

DREAMers Study Abroad
DREAMer students from the summer 2016 California-Mexico Dreamers study.
Photo: Armando Vazquez-Ramos/California-Mexico Studies Center of Cal State Long Beach

What is DACA?

First and foremost, it’s an acronym, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It is also an American immigration policy introduced in June of 2012, allowing certain undocumented minors to apply for renewable, two-year periods of deferred action from deportation, and allow them to apply for work permits. The application process for receiving DACA status is as follows:

  • Came to the US before they turned 16
  • Have lived in the US consistently since June 15, 2007
  • Were under age 31 on June 15, 2012 (or, born on June 16, 1981 or after)
  • Were physically present in the US on 15 June 15, 2012, and at the time they’re making a request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS (United States Customs and Immigrants Services)
  • Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012
  • Have completed high school or their GED, have been honorably discharged from the armed forces, or are enrolled in school
  • Have not been convicted of a felony or any serious misdemeanors, or three or more other misdemeanors, and are not otherwise a threat to national security or public safety
DREAMer Info
DACA Info

It’s important to note that while DACA defers deportation to those applicants who are approved, it is by no means a carte blanche for DREAMers to receive benefits to which American citizens are entitled, such as welfare, food stamps, federal student loans, and in some states, they cannot even obtain a drivers license. They must renew their DACA status every two years, which includes paying fees and rigorous background checks. Immigration conversations can be heated, so it’s important that we keep our facts straight.

What’s Next for the DREAMers?

DREAMers at a rally
Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

The ball is now in Congress’ court. President Donald Trump has promised to revisit DACA in six months, if no legislation has been successfully passed. In the meantime, no new DACA applications will be accepted, however those who are currently covered by by DACA should know the following:

  • DACA related permits (such as work permits) will begin to expire in March of 2018
  • All DACA recipients will lose their status by March 2020
  • Those with work permits set to expire September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2017 must reapply by October 5, 2017
  • Advanced Parole for travel abroad is no longer available, and it is highly recommended that those DACA recipients currently abroad return to the US immediately

We stand to lose a lot in America if we lose our DREAMers. They impact our economy in significant ways, and employment, as well as tax revenue, could be lost without them.

Immigration reform is a difficult and touchy subject. However, we must remember that at the end of the day, immigrants are people who deserve our respect and empathy. Boiling our semantics down to “illegal aliens” has an effect on the way we see, and talk about, our fellow Americans. Restricting these young people from being shining representations of the US abroad, cutting them off from being effective Everyday Ambassadors to the world, limits our capacity as a nation to see complex issues from multiple viewpoints in order to find more cohesive solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems. Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and author of Night, said it best:

“You, who are so-called illegal aliens, must know that no human being is illegal. That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?”

Resources:

Bustle – 7 Ways to Help DREAMers Now!

The New Yorker

The New York Times

The Guardian

Remezcla

United We Dream

We Are Here to Stay

CNBC (A piece by DREAMer Juan Escalante)

 



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