You May Say I’m a DREAMer [Where We Belong]

Jose VilsonJose1 Comment

An interesting story came across my desk this morning. Daniela Peraez, the valedictorian of her class, almost had to rescind her citizenship status over complications with the migra. This particular paragraph stuck with me:

Despite her uphill legal battle that lies ahead, Pelaez will head to Dartmouth College in September on a full scholarship.

As friends, family, and supporters watched Pelaez emerged confidently dressed in her white cap and gown at the North Miami Senior High School graduation, but her accomplishments recognized there went well beyond her diploma. She received the Superintendent’s Diploma of Distinction, she graduated Summa Cum Laude and she was the Valedictorian.

“Without your demonstration of kindness and sense of community I would have been deported,” she told the crowd during her speech.

Unbeknownst to most of the 311 million inhabitants of the United States of America, people who have immigrated to this country still have a dream of some nature. Even though the image of the American Dream itself has largely waned in light of recent economic troubles and, frankly, the mistreatment of those coming from Central and South America, the reality of some level of prosperity and quality of life lures even the most vulnerable. I get that the face of immigration has changed in the past century, but it bears repeating that the America’s image to the rest of the world still looks welcoming to those who can make the trek.

Once in this country, however, the current atmosphere has been less than receptive … on face value. For those with even a limited understanding of the way the economics works, you’ll know that they often play certain immigrants against people who should know better by supplying them jobs at substandard wages, denying them the right to unionize, then calling ICE on them the minute they revolt or want pay raises. Yet, and still, I’ve seen fingers lost, bruises and scars across faces, and necks shrunk from freak construction accidents. None of this deters some people from making a living so long as they can provide for their families.

Yet, the stereotype of an immigrant suggests that they (read: we) have no desire for education or prefer to go back to our countries while mooching off of this one. Sadly for these critics, most of us will stay, will create jobs where there were none, and will vote en masse based on the values and the issues. That’s why the DREAM Act is so important to us: while our parents worked dead-end jobs just to make ends meet, they expected us to do much better than us.

Just like everyone else in this country.

Until all citizens’ children have the right to go to the college of their choice, then this country can’t ask the world to give it the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Moreover, these children, whatever you believe about them, just want a place to belong. Because they do. We do.

Jose, who’s not the only one …

Comments 1

  1. Daniela Peraez’s plight angers and sickens me. The “American Dream” has not only been weakened but perverted by the greed, hatred, and racism which fuels the conservative/right wing/”new majority agenda” machine.

    The struggle of the immigrant, legal or undocumented, has worsened at an alarming rate. In 2002/2003 I worked as a Tutor/Advocate for migrant students (pre-k-adult) from Mexico and Jamaica, and their families. Back then I had to work hard to gain my clients’ trust and to encourage them and their families to take advantage of the services available to them from my employer, The Migrant Educational Outreach Program at SUNY New Paltz, and at the time–other agencies. Many were terrified to apply for ANY type of service, and some kept their children away from school for fear of being forced to supply “papers”. Back then schools and other institutions did not have the legal right to inquire on immigration/citizenship status.

    Now–how many children and families, not to mention individual adults, go without education, health, emergency food, or other services for fear of being picked up by police or federal agents. Local and federal authorities now hunt for “illegals”, stopping health workers driving their clients to doctors appointments, ticketing them for “transporting undocumented people” and arresting their passengers. In some southern states, such as Alabama, health workers must go their clients in the fields to provide care, so great is the fear of arrest and deportation.

    In this time of war, economic gloom, and political unrest it’s very easy to let our attention glide over the increasing problems and inequities immigrants face in our country. How many of us are immigrants or the direct descendants of immigrants? (All of us, truth be told despite collective amnesia.) We can’t allow that to happen; we must stay aware and work to change the shameful way we are treating those who come to us to pursue employment and the ephemeral ‘American Dream”.

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