Last month, I received an email from a young Mexican, "I am a DREAMER (I find the term infantilizing) someone who was brought to the U.S as a child illegally and raised here. I received a work permit through DACA, I can only work legally, I can't step out of the country and step back in as of now, and previously I would have to apply for special permission and pay the government $600 dollars to do so. I have managed to become a university student and it is my senior year. Given that, I plan to go to Mexico after I graduate and never to return to the U.S. Some people were born to be immigrants and I was not one of those people."
"DREAMER" comes from the the DREAM Act, which is an acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. It was introduced by two senators, Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), in 2001, to eventually grant residency to illegal minors living in the United States.
In 2019, the DREAM Act remains, well, a dream, and it's unclear if it will ever pass. Its opponents reject all illegal immigration, and don't want to set any precedent enabling more of it. Its supporters depict the issue morally. The New York Times has published many passionate editorials defending DREAMERS. On February 26th, 2018, for example, there's Joseph W. Tobin's "If You're a Patriot and a Christian, You Should Support the Dream Act," which begins:
The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls on us to welcome and protect the stranger. This should not be hard to do when the stranger is young, blameless and working hard to make this country a better place.
There are nearly 700,000 young men and women in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program who could soon be at risk for deportation. These "Dreamers" live in our neighborhoods, attend our schools, fight for our country and contribute to our workplaces. Our leaders in Washington, including President Trump, have a moral obligation to try to protect those who came to our nation as children with their parents, and who are Americans in every way.
"Young, blameless and working hard," dreamers are already ideal citizens, Tobin tells us, so why should we cruelly and immorally deny their simple dream of becoming Americans? At least one, though, is saying, "No, thanks," so let's hear more from this young man.
I have no full-brother or sister. My parents met in rural Nayarit, only my mother is from there. That was where I was born, for reasons I do not know and am apprehensive to question. My father left my pregnant mother, but returned a couple of years later, but by then my mother and I had immigrated to the U.S. In early 1993 my mother and I had crossed into the U.S illegally/undocumented (the semantics don't matter.) For clarity's sake I will tell you how I was snuck in. I was placed in a crib in the car of a green-card holding aunt who had a U.S born child, and my cousin's birth certificate was what was shown as proof that the baby in the crib can cross the border. My mother had to cross through the hills on foot like one usually imagines illegal crossings.
Once here, my mother and I had a tranquil existence, she would make good money working factory jobs in and about Orange and San Diego county. Things seemed to have been on the way up but unfortunately she got involved in an abusive relationship with a refugee from Latin America. In a quarrelsome household where one partner has legal presence and the other doesn't, constant threats of deportation were made and that sword of Damocles is one that always hangs over our heads. From then on my mother would run away from the house taking me and my new half-siblings and of course she would be pursued by her abuser, this continued for years. Roughly the years where I was in elementary school to middle school, such an unstable childhood going from women's shelter to unhappy homes again and again left me with the fact that by the time I finished high school I had gone to more schools than there are grades.
Where have you lived in the US, and what are you doing now?
Given such an unstable childhood, I have lived in numerous places in Orange and Fresno county and lived for a while in South L.A then at the time of middle school moved to an Appalachian community.
Currently, I am a senior in a "good" university on the East coast. I had it planned that I would have some sort of legal status by graduation, but outside of DACA I have no legal status. My mother does though, good for her.
Although you're functionally and socially an American, you're not one legally, so your integration has been very problematic and tension filled. Please talk about this process. How emotionally attached are you to the USA? And how are your bonds to Mexico?
First thing, I always knew I was illegal, it was something I had to always be conscious of, I don't know anyone else who brought here illegally as a child who did not always know they were illegal. When school tests would ask for my social security number I always had to check with the teacher on how I should answer with the excuse "I don't know my social." I know exactly why I didn't know my social, because I didn't have one. I always knew I was illegal.
Other issues are that I never integrated into a larger immigrant community, because I was always moving around, there were times I lived in immigrant neighborhoods and times I lived in very multi-cultural (no sarcasm, families of all background's inhabited them) woman's shelters. I never sprouted roots
Given that background, there was always the darn hope for papeles, one day, one day we would get our papeles and our nightmare would be over, that was our religion our hope.
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