Anna Quindlen, Blog Action Day, Dr. Martin Luther King, DREAM Act, Fund for DREAMers, integrated education Northern Ireland, Memoir, Proposition 300, The Power of We, United States Department of Homeland Security
Blog Action Day is a global effort designed to promote discussion around a single issue that affects each of us. Since 2007, this annual event has inspired positive conversation in the blogosphere, with writers exploring universal topics related to our environment, poverty, climate change, water, and food. This year’s theme, The Power of We, provides an opportunity to define and celebrate the concept of community. How will we make our mark on the world? What will we do to make sure our children’s dreams come true? Everything in our power.
I am reminded of a former student who graduated recently with an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Like me, she is an immigrant. Unlike me, she must wait a little longer before the dream of America will wrap her in its arms. She tells me she remembers her journey here. She was nine years old when she walked for hours through the desert, carrying her little brother much of the way. She remembers her family being reunited with her father after the exhausting crossing, “Finally, we could throw our arms around him and hug him tight. I just remember his arms weren’t long enough to reach around all of us.”
In the weeks, months, and years that followed, she did everything right. She quickly learned English and played by the rules, every day pledging allegiance to the United States flag at a school where she was often the recipient of certificates for “good citizenship.” She believed everything her teachers told her. She showed up to school every day, ready to learn and eager to contribute to the only community she had ever known, the only country she had ever called “home.” By the time our paths crossed, she was a teenager, an aspiring nurse. Still without a path to citizenship, disparaged as “an illegal,” her immigrant spirit remained intact and undaunted. Along with approximately 65,000 immigrant children who graduate from high school in the United States every year, she lacked the nine digits of a social security number required for a driver’s license, employment, the military, or a college education. Many of us feared that the pursuit of happiness would remain only a dream for these children who had taken their first steps on American soil, and placed their hands on their hearts every day to pledge allegiance to the only country they have ever known. But somehow, the undocumented children who had become more than collateral damage in this war over immigration, understood Anna Quindlen’s assertion that,
immigration is never about today; it is always about tomorrow
~ the kind of tomorrow that Dr. Martin Luther King envisioned when he described his dream of an America with a place at the table for children of every race and room at the inn for every needy child. The kind of tomorrow I dreamed about as a little girl in Northern Ireland, a tomorrow where Catholics and Protestants would attend the same schools. The kind of tomorrow that belongs to the young people who were brought here as infants by parents who had dreams of a better life for them. For them, immigration is an exercise in hope. It is a story of deferred gratification, deferred dreams.
They continue to wait, the DREAM (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act still maddeningly elusive. The DREAM Act makes sense to reasonable people, its purpose to help young people who meet the following requirements so they may enlist in the military or go to college and finally have a path to citizenship:
- must have entered the United States before the age of 16
- must have been present in the United States for at least five (5) consecutive years prior to enactment of the bill
- must have graduated from a United States high school, or have obtained a GED, or have been accepted into an institution of higher education (i.e. college/university)
- must be between the ages of 12 and 35
- must have good moral character
The DREAM Act would allow those young immigrants who live quietly among us, often in fear, to give back to America. It makes sense to protect our investment in their education through sensible legislation, and finally, we took a giant step forward, when on June 15, 2012, President Obama announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would not deport certain DREAM Act–eligible undocumented youth. Under a directive from the secretary of DHS, these young people will be given temporary relief called “deferred action.” More information is available in this FAQ created jointly by NILC and United We Dream.
It is a cumbersome process, however, and the application fee is $465 – a hefty sum for young people who cannot work, and it will undoubtedly deter some of them from applying to the deferred action program. A national fundraising effort is underway to support those DREAMers – like my former student – who need financial assistance. The “Fund for DREAMers” hopes to raise funds to help offset the application fee for as many as one million undocumented young people who meet those qualifications listed above.