Undocumented youth are stepping out of the shadows of anonymity to publicly share their citizenship status and personal stories on a new website. The Dream is Now launched this week. It's a project of filmmaker Davis Guggenheim that is financed by Laurene Powell Jobs, philanthropist and widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs.
There are an estimated 1 to 2 million young immigrants who lack the proper documents to live in the US after being brought here as children by their parents. Now many have begun young adulthood, but they still lack the citizenship and identities they need to train for and begin careers and to live normal lives. These undocumented youth and young adults, known as DREAMers, have worked politically for more than a decade to forge a path to a legal status. They derive their name from a legislative bill known as the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act [Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act] would allow undocumented immigrant students with good moral character who graduate from US high schools and can prove their ongoing presence in the country the chance to earn a conditional permanent residency.
With a fiercely urgent desire to act as agents of their own destinies, many DREAMers have shared their stories on www.thedreamisnow.org, in order to push for passage of the provisions in the DREAM Act. The website launched this week.
One DREAMer, Alina, shares that she was raised as a conservative Republican. So she thinks that DREAM Act needs to be evaluated from all sides of the spectrum, not from a single viewpoint. Since every person should count and be treated as a human being, passage of a DREAM Act is Christian action, she explains.
Her own dream is to enlist in the military so she can give back to the United States, a country that has given so much to her.
Passage of the DREAM Act is critical to the futures of youth like Alina who have no other legal avenue to obtain legal status. Returning to their country of birth doesn’t guarantee a path to documented status and usually complicates the matter with other legal obstacles. Many DREAMers lack citizenship documents from their home country also.
The Dream Is Now project lets young undocumented immigrants submit videos that explain the transformation they’d see in their own lives if the DREAM Act were passed. The videos will be posted on the website. Guggenheim, with “Waiting for Superman” and “An Inconvenient Truth” already on his resume, plans to eventually compile the DREAMers’ stories into a documentary film.
“The documentary becomes a living, breathing petition,” Guggenheim told Yahoo News. “These DREAMers are putting everything on the line. When they come out like this, they are saying, ‘I’m ready to risk it all for what I believe.’”
Powell Jobs' mission
Powell Jobs, financial backer of the effort, told Yahoo News the new project opened a channel for the issue’s momentum and gave some visibility to the young people whose lives would benefit from the DREAM Act.
“There needed to be a demystification—to put a face to these people, to hear the individual stories,” Powell Jobs told Yahoo News. They report that this was one of the few interviews she has granted since Steve Jobs’ death in 2011.
Powell Jobs told Yahoo News that her initiative to help low-income and minority students attend college, College Track, triggered her interest in DREAMers. Many participants of the College Track program are undocumented.
"They’re our children’s friends. They are people we know. This is a huge national problem that needs resolution,” Powell Jobs is quoted as saying.
The project is supported by a Facebook page, an Instagram and Twitter campaign utilizing the hashtag #thedreamisnow, and a petition on the website.
The power of story that The Dream Is Now harnesses brings an engaging dynamic to the political effort that has already taken hold among the American public. The DREAM Act is such an obvious work of justice, that even amid the anti-immigrant initiatives of the past few years, it nearly cleared Congress in 2010, to reach the desk of a president who would have signed it into law. It failed largely owing to the Senate filibuster.
Now is a new day and sees a new politics in America. Latinos claimed their political power in the presidential election of 2012, and both political parties have taken notice. In a diverse America, an obstructionist perspective will not stand. President Obama issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has already provided a two year window of legal presence in the country for qualifying DREAMers. Now, with the majority of Americans advocating comprehensive immigration reform, passage of the DREAM Act is a logical component.
With influential leaders lending their talent, their financing and their support to the DREAMers, the DREAMers have an avenue to vocalize their own stories in their own voices.
Those stories will move the hearts of America.
Action Dream Team [Facebook group]