Thursday, January 24, 2013
The DREAMer and the amateur activist
Today I had the privilege of sharing an auditorium stage with a valorous young man as he told his personal story to yet another audience. His name is Jorge and he is a DREAMer, one of the almost two million undocumented young immigrants temporarily relieved of the threat of deportation thanks only to President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (June 15, 2012). Since 2001, our craven Congress has failed to pass version after version of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors) Act, a measure that would provide a path to citizenship for young people like Jorge, who came to the U.S. with their parents and who are citizens in all but name of this, the only country they have ever known. Our lawmakers, unable to face down the temper tantrums of selfish, xenophobic constituents, have allowed deserving young people to languish in the shadow of deportation, deprived of the legal status necessary to apply for a job or for college aid.
Listen to Jorge's story and to those of other DREAMers. I defy you to keep a dry eye. Their stories are all remarkably alike. Happy in their life in the U.S. until the day they need their Social Security number to apply for a job or for college. Then their parents must finally confess the long-hidden secret that they and their children are undocumented. Though earning a living and even paying taxes, they are considered "illegal." Though they came here so their children would have a place in the sun, they ended up in twilight zone. I see no difference in the entrance of my great-grandmother through Ellis Island and the entrance of these parents, whatever the portal or threshold they managed to cross.
I risked nothing, suffered nothing standing next to Jorge up on that stage. He had to hold back tears and forge ahead with his narrative, a story he told not for his own benefit but in the hope of assisting his undocumented brothers and sisters. Afterwards I hugged him and went about my work day, marveling at his fortitude.
It's a new year and a second administration. May it be the one that at last allows Liberty to light the way to citizenship for Jorge and so many others like him.