A Nation of DREAMers (by Guest Blogger David Salerno Owens)


Dream_ActTeen Producers Project put together a wonderful documentary regarding the DREAM Act, entitled “Teen Producers Share DREAM Act Documentary,” which you can watch from here.  America, as a nation, has always been a nation of immigrants.  Our very existence comes from a discovery that lead to many who would eventually immigrate to America to obtain a happiness they could not get from their own homeland.  What we are seeing in today’s fight over immigration is sad in many ways.  We have come upon a crossroads over many immigrants who do not have documentation to be here in America.  They have all come to the United States from far and wide to reach out for a dream that we all are trying to live up to.  As a result, their children have been swept up into a debate that has led many to have little hope to obtain any of their dreams.  As Christian Ramirez of American Friends Service Committee stated in the documentary, “Every year 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school and every year, the aspirations and the hopes of those high school students crash into the reality of not being able to go to school…” (2011).

What happens when these students can no longer continue their stellar educational goals?  As some begin face this reality, they are left with little else but to fend any way they can to survive within the confines of our nation’s borders.  Though we may want to keep them in the shadows and hope not to deal with them, their very survival depends on what each American thinks about as they get up to go to school or work, to ensure we have the basics to provide for our family.  By sweeping these children under the rug, we make them vulnerable to discrimination, inhumane treatment and potential dependence on criminal activities.

As a nation, America should continue to regard everyone’s dream as a means to bring into the fold hard-working, law-abiding individuals who can become productive citizens to this society.  We should not be shunning anyone who wants to continue to live up to these dreams that we all hold dear to our hearts.

The DREAM Act is still being debated amongst our representatives today.  President Obama has signed an executive order allowing all children of undocumented parents to remain in the United States.  There is currently debate among the DREAMers to reject the House of Representatives passage of only passing citizenship for children as opposed to a comprehensive immigration package.  What are your thoughts on passing immigration that could potentially separate families for decades?  What more needs to be done to guarantee that undocumented children who show so much potential academically do not get their futures dashed as they face obsticles to higher learning?


10 thoughts on “A Nation of DREAMers (by Guest Blogger David Salerno Owens)

  1. Because of knowing how hard the people in my family and my boyfriend’s family had to work to immigrate here legally from South Africa and Europe, I don’t hold much sympathy for people who migrate here illegally and don’t reach out to become legal citizens. However, I do have sympathy for the children of those immigrants since they had no say in the situation. I don’t want to be that person who says the children should be allowed to stay here (because they should especially if they mostly grew up here) but their parents should be deported, because I can only imagine life without my parents being close. But I do think it is only fair that the parents become actual citizens. I know immigration laws are strict and it’s hard to become a citizen, but we do have A LOT of people living here in the United States. So I am completely at loss of what to do because I don’t want parents and kids to be separated, but illegal immigrants are hurting our economy and immigrants becoming legal does help our economy, but we are running out of room for a bigger population.
    I think that the best way to handle this should be a law that guarantees children and their parents to become legal citizens if the child can show they spent the majority of their schooling in the United States, got a GPA of 2.5 or higher in high school and are continuing their studies in college. This will not only encourage (or so I would hope) many minority children to do better in school, but also their parents to be more involved with their schooling. Yes, this would deport the children and families who aren’t succeeding in school, but this might be something we, as a society, will have to face. To succeed as a country, there are sacrifices we have to make…

    • I totally am with you in that I know firsthand how difficult it is to become an American citizen. I have relatives who could not do so because of such strict laws and to see so many others illegally doing so is disturbing. But like you, I feel that there should be some leeway for the children of those who illegally immigrated here. Requiring high educational standards not only encourages immigrants to become successful but in a way “weeds out” otherwise unproductive pupils. Setting this standard would, I think, balance out the high population we have in this country as successful citizens will then learn through our educational requirements how to effectively function in society, take care of it, and hopefully raise successful offspring of their own to carry on the cycle when they are gone. In this way, they are less likely to become dependent not only on crimes but on our government, which ultimately takes a heavy toll on us citizens who did not immigrate.

      • Lindsey & Christine,

        Wonderful posts. These are concrete suggestions to problems we have with immigration and those who are undocumented. Thank you for sympathizing with the children of undocumented immigrants. They obviously have no control over the paths their parents have taken. We do, however, need to keep in mind that splitting families apart would undermine the good intentions that keeping their children here if their parents must go would negatively effect how well these children can do. Families are vessels for support. They can adversely affect the way their children become effective, self-sustaining individuals in any society. What you have suggested could be a means to and ends by allowing the parents to remain as a way to support their children through their education while trying to acquire legal documentation to remain in the United States.

  2. Oregon is doing its best to combat the federal government’s lag in the immigration reform by creating “Tuition Equity,” which allows undocumented high school graduates in Oregon to receive in-state tuition for their higher education. It was said that this choice was not an immigration issue, but rather an “Oregon” issue: In order to better promise a bright future for Oregon, we’ve got to provide a bright future for our children, and in this case, our many undocumented students.

    • Wow, I didn’t know Oregon was trying to do that. That sounds better then the tuition deal the DREAM Act would provide. DREAMers would have had to pay out of state tuition; and anyone who’s ever looked into college costs could tell you, out of state is around twice as expensive as in state tuition. I think this “Tuition Equity” is a great idea and would greatly help out the undocumented high school graduates. Especially since the vast majority of them live in low income families.

      • Allyse & Geraldine,

        It is a wonder how allowing in-state tuition makes a huge difference. Many of these students, the DREAMers as we know them, are given little to no support through our local, state and federal governments. This has left them many barriers by which could be unbearable to overcome. It is wonderful to here that Oregon is leading the way in allowing these DREAMers opportunities they would otherwise not have access to. Having such “Tuition Equity” will go a long ways to opening up the doors that have been for years shut in the faces of these students. More needs to be done. As long as we keep this conversation going, the pressure on our representatives will begin to force them to act. Great posts.

      • I think it is a great first step, Rose and David. Considering they still aren’t eligible for financial aid of any sort, at least they will be given tuition fees they can actually pay off if they work hard.

  3. I feel like all kids deserve a chance at a great education, but I don’t feel like we should always provide aid to those who want it illegally. Like that Fresh Air interview we listened to, we shouldnt punish someone whos family moved here when they were under a year old and never put the time in to become citizens, but at the same time we shouldn’t just allow that residency to be something we just hand out. Like Lindsay said, it is frustrating when someone goes through all the hard work to get into this country the right way when they could have just gone about it illegally and gotten the same chance at education.

    Obviously the issue isn’t in who gets the opportunity at fair education, but the immigration process itself. How broken is it that such a large number of children each year are not citizens yet graduating from our schools? Why is it so hard to get a legal residency when it is so easy to just do it “illegally”?

    • Sean,
      Your last question is – I think – the most pertinent. It is the question that frustrates me most about immigration law. Most born citizens in this country treat the concept of “the American Dream” with disdain; all of us take it for granted because we never had to exert effort to earn the rights of citizens.

      I absolutely agree that we should continue to advocate for kids who are dragged across the border by their families. They cannot be held responsible for a crime they committed involuntarily. However, in class this past week, an important side-issue was brought regarding this advocacy. Say we do provide for immigrant children to have equal access to education here. But what of their home life? What of their families who ARE still responsible for coming across illegally? This is where I become so torn on the subject. On the one hand, I want everyone to have a fair shake at a productive, fulfilling life in this country. On the other hand, breaking the law should have its consequences.

      I think it should be made much easier for people to obtain just a temporary dispensation to live and work here, and once that time is up, the person will have to decide either to become a permanent resident, or return to their country of origin. Almost like a permit to drive. The permit lasts to give you enough time to learn the laws of the road and practice driving; a permit to live here in the US would give the person a reasonable amount of time to go through the neccessary procedures to become a resident and/or a citizen. All analogies aside, I’ll reiterate that at least a temporary “permit” to live and work here should be much simpler to obtain. The actual process to become a citizen can remain the same, but at least give the people that really want it a chance to get it the right way.

      • Sean & Callie,

        Great conversation! Sean’s questions are important in looking into immigration more productively. Callie’s insight really brings to light the essence of immigration for undocumented immigrants. We have a system that is broken to the core. The reason we have so many undocumented immigrants is a wait-list that lasts 10-15 years with some possibility of citizenship. Those who are affected the most are children. They have no control over the actions of their parents. Perhaps these permits could help elevate the angst of being undocumented, but until we manage to fix a system that is far worse than any DMV we’ve been in, there is simply not enough time in the world that will convince those otherwise.

        As Americans, many of our fellow citizens do take for granted the rights we naturally have as citizens. What many of these undocumented immigrants are doing is what any parent would do for their families, finding the best opportunities for their families to live and survive. As we already know, many of the government services that we as Americans are entitled to are off limits to undocumented immigrants. Let’s make sure students who are undocumented are not left to fall through the cracks of our society in hopes that they will not take away valuable resources they have no access to.

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