Commentary

Dreamers

By Blair Jackson |

When Leticia’s* parents came to the United States, they imagined a better world for her. Today, she is a model citizen, well-spoken and mild mannered with no trace of an accent. She has a passion for singing, and her love for music is linked to a love for her abuelo, who used to sing her to sleep when her parents were working late shifts at the factories or plants, wherever they could find work without documentation.
Today, Leticia is enrolled at the University of Arkansas, and even though she has lived in Arkansas for 20 years, she is still required to pay out-of-state tuition which adds up to $1,700 per class. It is a long, hard road for an undocumented immigrant to earn a degree; and after college will come the long, hard road of obtaining a job. She is one of America’s undocumented immigrants, a community estimated to be approximately 12 million.
And as one of the 2.1 million who would benefit from the DREAM Act, she finally has hope that she may be granted citizenship, that she will be able to work and give back to her community, and that she will be able to travel to Mexico, to see the house where her mother grew up.
The DREAM Act is a piece of federal legislation that would allow undocumented children and young adults a path to obtain citizenship through college or the armed services. The DREAM Act, however, does not address the question of out-of-state tuition prices and enrollment requirements that often deter undocumented immigrants from pursuing higher education.
Today, there are a lot of negative sentiments surrounding immigration, and none receive more flak than those who enter the country illegally.
“Calling an illegal alien an ‘undocumented immigrant’ is like calling a burglar an uninvited house guest.” — Illegalaliens.us
Statements like this are designed to make citizens believe undocumented immigrants are stealing something from the American community; but what could they be stealing? Without a Social Security number, they are ineligible for government assistance programs. However, they can be assigned an Individual Taxpayer Number, through which they can pay taxes. They are virtually barred from high-paying or specialty jobs and thus are not allowed the social mobility equated with the American Dream.
They live in constant fear of being deported, and their status is so taboo that even families do not discuss the problems of being undocumented — leaving the issue largely silent, both on the political frontier and in the immigrant community.
Since the DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001, young adults, calling themselves “Dreamers,” have begun breaking the silence and coming out of the shadows their status has cast on their lives. There are many factors involved in immigration politics. It’s not as easy as granting amnesty or doling out worker’s permits or building a fence. If there were an easy solution, there wouldn’t be 2 million children caught in limbo because of their parents’ choices.
As for the current dreamers, I can’t imagine better citizens to have in my community. Brave enough to put their security on the line; determined enough to persevere through financial and bureaucratic limitations; these young men and women will never take American citizenship for granted, and they will never underestimate the power of freedom.
* Leticia is not the real name of the UAstudent. She asked that her identity be concealed for the protection of her family.

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