We Are Not The Original DREAMers
25 years ago my parents and I immigrated to this country together. I was 9 months old and they were 20/21 years old at the time. My parents made the greatest of sacrifices by immigrating here always putting me first. I was their only child at the time. I joined the immigrant rights movement in 2009 at the age of 17. At this point my parents were 37/38 and the three of us were undocumented and very afraid. I still did not know what it meant to be undocumented and unafraid at the time. I barely understood what it meant to be undocumented. Something my parents knew all to well since they first stepped foot on this side of the border.
Soon I became empowered and embodied what it meant to be undocumented and unafraid because I learned my rights. I recognized that I deserved dignity and respect regardless of my immigtation status, and so did my parents. I was part of the national push for the DREAM Act 2010.
I recall my parents time and time again saying, “It’s fine if we aren’t granted a pathway to citizenship, as long as they create a pathway for you.” I looked at my parents with admiration because what they expressed was among the most selfless affirmations. I was extremely naive.
This movement will do that to you. Those against us will do that to you. Conquer and divide with narratives that have you validating your demand for opportunities while you disregard the humanity of those that have done so much for you to be where you are. This includes the DREAMer narrative.
I was naive because I failed to look at my parents to tell them, “No! My goals and aspirations, my relief and peace of mind should not come at the expense of yours.” At the time, I failed to view my parents beyond the lens of their son. I failed to view my parents for the human beings they are beyond any role or connection they have in my life. How many more reiterations of their dreams will my mother and father have to devise? How many more reiterations of the DREAM Act, DACA, CIR and other legislation will we recycle before all of our humanity and dreams are at the forefront?
Years went on and in 2015 my parents adjusted their status to legal permanent residents after 23 long years. I remember the expression of guilt they tried to hide because I was not able to adjust with them. The irony right…my parents would have given up everything for me to have this long sought relief before them. I stand before them everyday still waiting. I never explicitly told my parents, but I want them to know that they are not guilty of anything. You are not guilty of making the journey 25 years ago because you put me first every step of the way. You are not guilty of your relief while I still wait because there is no doubt in my mind that if you could you would let me take your place in a heartbeat.
Undocumented or not, my parents will forever be my greatest of allies. Mom and dad, you taught me to dream before I even knew I was undocumented. I am a dreamer because you no matter what I aspired to be or create, you’ve supported me every step of the way. Even some of my craziest ideas. I am not a DREAMer because of a bill that seeks to transfer any guilt from me onto others like my parents. I am a dreamer not a DREAMer [by current definition]. The DREAMer identity is a by product of my unsolicited opinion — like a vast number of categories that politicians and the media strive to place us in. Mom and dad, you and others like you are the original dreamers.
These are my reflections and I share with you in hopes that we will not repeat past mistakes.
May you not compromise the humanity of others in the community in your pursuit to validate your own.
Before they are mothers, fathers, tios, aunts, grandfathers, abuelitas, street vendors, carwasheros, household workers, jornaleros — they are humans first with dreams of their own. They are the original dreamers.