Still Dreaming

I have never seen my class so quiet. Fixated with the person at the front of the hall. All armed with questions for her. Frantically scribbling down the speaker’s remarks — their notebooks looking more and more abstract as they try to find a way to capture everything being presented. The soft lighting on the stage and the speaker’s slow, studied delivery seem to give these few moments an air of gravity befitting the topic: DACA and the DREAM Act.

As part of our unit on social justice, I had my ninth grade English class read parts of the DREAM Act and, invited a guest immigration lawyer to speak to them about it, as well as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Both aim to help prevent immigrant youth from being deported.

In classroom discussions, my students and I have wrestled with questions about immigration and the double standards inherent within certain policies. We’ve laughed at Donald Trump’s ludicrous proposal to build a wall on our southern border and have sighed while reading the recent history of protest and legislative inaction around the DREAM Act. I don’t have answers to these questions, I tell them. As a nation we’re struggling with coming up with real answers, too.

But I do know that ending DACA, a program that has inspired so many students to excel in school, is not a solution to this issue.

Senator and Presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s statements about ending the DACA program once again show that he’s not willing to be President of the America that I teach in. An America where young undocumented students show up early in the morning and stay after school for tutoring to ensure their essays get A’s. These high-achieving students, many of them often balancing responsibilities at home with their academic work, believe in the American promise of a better life through education. I don’t call them Dreamers; I call them Doers. They’re an integral part of making this nation great. They’re keeping us honest about our promise. They’re working hard in hopes of achieving a better life than their parents. And what’s more American than that?

We need a President who will defend my hard working students’ rights to further their education, not threaten them with deportation. This is why I’m supporting Hillary Clinton. Her remarks after the failed attempt to pass the DREAM Act, not only resonate with me, as the grandson of immigrants, but also provides hope for my students:

“Many [Dreamers] would like nothing more than to contribute to the only country they’ve ever known as home. But for these children, because of their immigration status, they are often effectively barred from pursuing a post-secondary education and reaching their full potential. Through no fault of their own, they are forced to live in the shadows and denied their chance at achieving their God given potential.

“What are we saying to these hard working students? Well I will tell you. We are saying they are not welcome in the only country they have ever known. We are telling them to go back to another country they often know little about, where they may not speak the language, or understand the culture. These are children caught at a crossroads, and rather than providing them with an opportunity, we are holding them accountable for the actions of their parents.

“This is not the America I know.

“There is a solution to this crisis, but sadly, the Senate today failed to act. The DREAM Act — which I have proudly cosponsored for several years — would help expand opportunities for our nation’s immigrant children. For those students who have grown up in the United States, have demonstrated good moral character, and are pursuing a college education or have enlisted in the military, the DREAM Act will provide an opportunity to earn legal status in this country.

“There are many good reasons to enact the DREAM Act. In today’s twenty-first century economy, where a post-secondary education is quickly becoming the minimum requirement for higher-earning jobs, we need to provide the children in our country with every opportunity to achieve academically, both for their benefit but also for the benefit of our society. The DREAM Act would also strengthen our nation’s military readiness, allowing these well-qualified young men and women to serve their country with honor. But most importantly, the DREAM Act ensures that the promise of the American Dream becomes a reality for all our children.”

Hillary gets it.

-Luke Villalobos

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