I love my son. I watched him grow into a young man with direction and purpose in a country that offers him a chance to make a good life for himself. The day he was born, I looked into his face and knew I would do anything for him to have that opportunity.
Parents are like that. We will make sacrifices. We will take chances. If necessary, we will even move to another country to provide our children a better life.
Now imagine, if you are a parent, that your child has reached the age where he or she has chosen a dream and is ready to begin pursuing it. They are ready to go to college. They are eager to work part-time and help pay the way. They are beginning the process of becoming self-reliant adults. Perhaps one day they will even become proud parents, too. And then tragedy strikes. The whole dream abruptly shatters. Your child is denied the right to work. He cannot go to college. He might even be arrested and sent away to another country. All that you’ve worked for falls apart. And there is nothing you can do to stop it.
If that happened to me and to my own son, I don’t know how I would handle it. I would almost certainly feel that I had failed him as a parent. But more importantly, how would he feel? How would he cope? What would happen to his dreams? What would the future hold for him?
For me – and for you – these are theoretical questions. But for more than 2 million young persons who were brought to this country as children, who grew up here, who attend our public schools and want to go to college, who aspire to what we have always called the American Dream, these questions are real. We call these young people DREAMers. I have listened to many of them tell their stories. They are full of longing and courage and bright determination. But these stories also have a darker, shadowed side, one of daunting challenges that must be overcome. This personal journey from shadow to light—the struggle of these young immigrants to realize their brightest dreams—is what this publication is about.
For each of them, there is an obstacle standing in the way, a big one: They are undocumented. It is not their fault. Many of them don’t even know they aren’t U.S. citizens until they try to get a driver’s license or apply to college. They’ve always been Americans. The discovery is a shock. So is learning they can be deported to a foreign country they know nothing about. Through no choice of their own, their life is being destroyed.
Most of us intuitively understand there’s something wrong in this. It just doesn’t seem right. It just doesn’t seem American. And we know something needs to change. We want to know what we can do.
That’s why we at Neighborhood Centers have created this publication. For more than 100 years, we have served the Houston region, a magnet for people across the world seeking a better life. These newcomers have helped make Houston a dynamic, exciting place to live. This is their home, and nothing concerns them more than their children. Among those children is a special group—the DREAMers. As many as 100,000 of them now live in our region. They grew up here and are Americans in every way but one: They lack documents to prove it. These young immigrants are talented, ambitious and hardworking.
They aspire, as all young people do, to a future with hopes fulfilled. That includes belonging to a community and a country, the one they grew up in. It includes being a U.S. citizen. But for them, there is only one way to accomplish that goal: a change in our nation’s immigration laws with passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, called the DREAM Act.
That Act is, in part, why these young people are called American DREAMers.
Non-statutory efforts to provide some relief to them are welcome. The deferred action policy on deportation adopted by the White House in June 2012 is an example. But such a change is only temporary. It is not etched in law and can be easily reversed. To a troubling extent, it keeps these young immigrants in the shadows. What is needed is a permanent solution that puts DREAMers on the pathway to citizenship. What’s needed is the DREAM Act. This publication explains why and what the Act would accomplish. The scope and range of its many benefits—especially huge economic benefits for us all—will surprise you. You also may be surprised to learn how much broad-based support the Act enjoys. Business, educational and religious leaders across the country are urging passage of the Act.
Finally, I am pleased to note that in these pages you’ll meet some DREAMers in person and hear their remarkable stories. They will almost certainly make your heart swell with emotion.
Our American DREAMers make me feel optimistic about the future. They are among the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met. Quite frankly, our nation needs them.
An excerpt by Angela Blanchard, President and CEO of Neighborhood Centers from the book American DREAMers: The Journey From Shadow To Light.