What 50 Dreamers Just Told Me

Just left a powerful conversation with 50 amazing Americans from border communities, ranging from El Paso to McAllen, Las Cruces to Laredo. All of them are Dreamers — born in another country, but raised here in the U.S., every bit as American (“in every way that is meaningful” to quote Claudia) as my children — and they are here on the Hill, advocating for fellow Dreamers, and importantly, their parents and other immigrants who they called “the original Dreamers”.

Wendy, for example, told me that she came to this country at the age of 3, raised in New Mexico, went to school where she learned to be quiet and not draw attention out of concern for her status and that of her parents. Told me about her father who worked the toughest, hardest jobs… in fact, sustaining a near-death injury on a job and, because he is not a citizen, going into significant medical debt. Wendy wants the chance to be a citizen, but she doesn’t want to do that at the expense of her parents who made critical sacrifices to her, and by extension and through their work, to this country.

Heard from a young man, a Dreamer from El Paso, who has done well in school, is finishing a masters degree in software engineering and cyber security but is working as a roofer right now because his lack of citizenship prevents him from applying for jobs that require clearances and background checks that include proof of citizenship.

I spoke with another young man who has deferred his ambition of working at NASA so that he can spend time helping his family and other immigrants obtain status and the ability to more meaningfully contribute to their communities.

Listened to a young woman from McAllen who told me how demoralizing and downright dehumanizing a 90 minute interrogation at an interior checkpoint — through which she must travel on a weekly, sometimes daily basis — is for her and her family. Too often the case, another DACA recipient told me that he had been stopped while walking down the street one morning on his way to work. They detained him and he spent a month away from home until his hearing. What did the Judge say at the hearing? That he had done nothing wrong and that his record of service, academics, and work made it clear that he should be right back in our community — his community.

Another Dreamer living in San Antonio, finishing her education at her own expense, working two jobs because she doesn’t qualify for federal loans — and told me that she had just heard from her parents that they might “self deport” and put her in charge of her siblings. How can she be successful with that kind of anxiety and fear and uncertainty about the future?

Bottom line: We have to pass a clean Dream act — meaning that these young Americans are able to thrive in this country, pursue citizenship AND importantly, their parents, their families, their communities are not punished, deported, militarized as a political concession to get that done. They made an excellent case, compelling, powerful, and I want every member of Congress to hear it.