Anamaria Santiago currently teaches literature and composition courses at UAB. She has been on staff at Anytown Alabama for numerous years and was honored to serve as an Anytown Alabama co-director this year.
Photo: Screenshot taken from “The Dream is Now” documentary
I recently attended a screening of The Dream is Now, a documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim that briefly chronicles the struggles and aspirations of four undocumented DREAMers, all of whom are committed to this country, and all have hopes of achieving their individual American dreams. DREAMers are people who meet the criteria of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
After the screening, sponsored by the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Greater Birmingham Ministries, several audience members stood to share their stories. The film is moving enough on its own, but its message was compounded for me by those who were courageous enough to speak through their tears about their struggles, some sharing that they, too, are DREAMers.
I was particularly struck by the comments of one such speaker who cried during the entire documentary and agonized because in just a few months, Congress can potentially decide with a simple vote the lives of millions, deciding whether the undocumented living here “are criminals or not” and whether their families will be broken apart. Since she unfortunately did not qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), she must await anxiously the next big sweeping decision. Another DREAMer fortunately received DACA, which allowed him to get a social security card and a driver’s license so he can start mechanical school this fall with in-state tuition.
One mother shared that she’s proud of her two kids in college, but laments that she, who’s been in Alabama since she was 10-years-old, no longer qualifies for the DREAM Act or DACA. Her husband expressed “We’re all dreamers here. Some are DREAMers because they are students, but some of us are dreamers as parents who want the best for their kids and are working towards becoming members of this country.”
The longer we wait to pass the DREAM Act, the more likely it is that a DREAMer will “age out” of the requirements and no longer benefit from the legislation. This, and the millions more undocumented adult parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents is why comprehensive, sweeping legislation such as that recently passed in the Senate is so important.
It’s the House’s turn to pick it up, but they might never on their own, considering Boehner’s recent promise not to without majority Republican support. So, the task has been put to us to encourage them, preferably before the August recess.
After you watch the film at www.thedreamisnow.org, please sign the petition and contact your Representative whose information can be found at www.House.gov.
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