The Dream is Real, The Dream Is Now!

by Shahael M

“They are from different parts of the map, but their intentions were born in the same place, here and because they were taught at a young age to believe they are driven by something outside of themselves and yes it is a dream but for them…stakes couldn’t be higher,” I heard the narrator say in Davis Guggenheim’s documentary “The Dream is Now.”

“The Dream is Now,” released in 2013, focuses on people seeking reformation on our controversial immigration system, through the Dream Act.

The Dream Act, an acronym for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, is a legislative proposal that if passed would help stimulate the growth of the economy in more ways than you think. As stated on the official website of the White House, The Dream Act would “permit students to serve in the U.S Armed Forces, and pursue higher education with hopes of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.” “According to a UCLA study, those affected by this bill could bring in taxable income of reportedly between $1.4 to $3.6 trillion dollars.”-https://www.whitehouse.gov

Students with only a high school diploma make 60% less money than those with college degrees. In addition, The Dream Act would help increase the efforts made in protecting our U.S borders from security threats.

Created in 2001, this bill has been rejected every year since 2009. In 2010, the Congress had approved the bill, but five of the members of the Republican Party in the Senate had denied it. Some people opposed this bill stating that having taxes from their hard earned money take care of illegal immigrants, and take over their job opportunities is repulsive. The rejection of the Dream Act had people break down in tears; it was hard for some people to cope with it. Some were left hopeless and depressed, like Joaquin. Joaquin, a Spanish immigrant, who was the first to graduate high school in his family, had taken his own life away on November 27, 2011.

His last words that he left in his journal for his family to see, read “Dear Lord, Forgive me what I’m about to do tonight. Jesus, I’ve realized that I have no chance in becoming a civil engineer, the way I’ve always dreamed of here, so I’m planning on going to you and help you construct the new temple in heaven.”

His dad shed some tears as he looked back to how his son thought his dreams were flushed down the drain as he realized his illegal status, kept him from enrolling into college.  Much to his family’s surprise, two days after his death, an acceptance letter from the University of Texas had arrived in the mail for Joaquin. By then it was too late… He had left behind the house that he had designed for his family. Joaquin wasn’t the only person that lost hope.

“I don’t have as much enthusiasm as I did before. You can dream all you want, but you’re still here,” Jose Patino said.

Jose Patino grew up wanting to be a mechanical engineer. He was a scholar in math and science, graduating at the top of his class with a full scholarship to Arizona State University. Despite having a diploma, his dreams were killed when he realized that he was ineligible to apply for the jobs that his fellow classmates sought because he was not a citizen. Even with the shortage of mechanic engineers in 2011, he reluctantly became a construction worker, facing hard physical labor working in stubble every day.

“I have a degree. I have all of this. What am I doing here?” he asks himself time after time.

Alejandro, in a similar situation as Jose, proudly showed off the ribbons that he had received after he was commissioned as Superior Cadet. One of his proudest moments was when he was named City Corps Staff Commander for the city of Chicago. This was one step closer into joining the Marine Corps, until he realized he couldn’t. Without a social security number and his citizenship, his dreams were stuck in cement.

Erika wasn’t going to allow her dreams to fade away and give up. Mexican Native, Erika Andiola. Erika Andiola, who migrated to the U.S at the age of 11, was in the National Honor Society at her school. Despite not having her citizenship, she was awarded a full scholarship to the Arizona State University. Soon after her acceptance into this college, scholarships and college tuition offered at schools in Arizona were abruptly eliminated, causing her to deal with the burden of having to pay her tuition that more than tripled over night.

Actions were taken where undocumented people were collected and deported. What had helped sparked this change was when taxpayers came forward, some complaining that they were paying for the college tuition of illegal immigrants. Shortly after, groups like S.W.E.R, I.D.E.A.S, and University Leadership Initiative in Chicago, were formed to bring about change to the immigration system, after the Dream Act died in committee and was never brought to the floor for a vote. Without the passing of the Dream Act, a lot of students found themselves in the dark struggling financially to implement their dreams into reality. Because illegal immigrants were ineligible to receive financial aid, Erika decided to take matters into her own hands and speak up. She was not afraid and did not keep quiet even after she was put in handcuffs after her and her supporters, who called themselves “the dreamers,”  had refused to leave the office of Senior U.S Senator Harry Reed until he took the action they lounged for, which was to put the bill up for vote.

“I want to get my degree and I want to help my country,” Erika said. The Dreamers unashamedly declared their name, stating their status in public at rallies to show that their status is not a label that will define them.

Attending his town hall meetings, the activist group did everything they could to get the attention of Senator John McCain. After some time, McCain joined forces with them, where he had made an attempt to pass the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. This Act was a bill that if passed would create a path for 12 million undocumented people to earn their citizenships legally. Like the Dream Act, this bill was rejected. According to Barack Obama’s official website, Former House Speaker John Boehner and House leadership had refused to put bring the bill up for a vote. Feeling frustrated but not defeated, Erika and her supporters marched to the White House with the hopes of convincing President Obama to grant them relief from deportation threats.  They were denied access into the White House inside, because of their status. They got in contact with Senior Advisor Valerie Jared, who told them that President Obama did not have the authorization to issue deportation protection. Ironically, a few months later the U.S president had held a conference where he granted temporarily relief from deportation to non U.S citizens that did not pose a threat to the U.S. Since given the right to apply for work authorization, many of the undocumented people were now able to pay their taxes, and afford to go to school.

Other members in the Senate joined the Immigration reformation. With the change that was slowly occurring, Erika was shocked when an immigration agent knocked at her door one night.

 “You’re going to be deported, it’s going to be soon,” Andiola was told by an immigration representative after she watched her mom get whisked away in hand-cuffs. Going with her mother to the immigration center, she later found herself locked away in a detention center for ten hours. Her attorney told her that even though there was a way she could stay in the U.S, her mother nonetheless would have to be deported. Refusing to let that happen, Ola went public with her story. When she had arrived to the detention center to see her mother, she was already too late. Her mother Maria had been placed on a bus earlier that day to head back to Mexico with her arms and legs in chains. Disbelief to say the least, she filed a petition, asking for temporary stay. Many people signed her petition, as her cry for mercy in her YouTube videos went viral. No response was received from the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

“Stop pretending that nothing is wrong, stop pretending that we’re living normal lives, because we’re not. This could happen to any of us,” Andiola said in a press conference. And just like that, 18,000 people had signed her petition, demanding that Erika’s mother be released and returned home to her. Rallies were organized, banners and shirts were designed. They protested day after day. As if her prayers were answered, Andiola received a call from her mother Maria with news of her release.

Held in an embrace after being reunited with her mother, Erika said “the community stopped it. The whole country mobilized it and stopped the bus.”

Following the reunion, The Mexican native had received a call from an immigration agent that she was granted a temporary stay a week before her high school graduation.

“I have a chance to graduate, a chance to be a doctor; there is no better feeling than that.”

“Once, I hear the President say that he passed the Dream Act. I don’t think that I’ll let him finish his sentence, I’ll automatically just leave and head onto the recruitment office,” Alejandro said.

Do you guys think that the Dream Act will ever be passed?

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