What is the Dream Act?
"The DREAM Act (short for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act of 2017 is a bipartisan proposed bill in Congress that will grant legal status to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and went to school here."
Like many other Americans in the U.S., I was clueless when it came to DACA and the Dream Act. Although, I myself am a brown person or POC (person of color), I live somewhat of a privileged life. However, I believe it is our duty as privileged people to do our research and learn how we can help those who are not as privileged as we are. I currently work at a non-profit in Memphis which directly helps and collects resources to assist undocumented and documented immigrants, students who have/had DACA, anyone looking for health insurance, legal help, and much more. Our team of passionate human beings of all different backgrounds have one sole purpose: to help the oppressed. It wasn't until I started working here that I truly took an interest in human rights. I like to consider myself an activist for human, animal, and environmental rights... but if I am uneducated on topics such as the Dream Act, how could I possibly be of assistance to the oppressed!? So, for those of you like myself that want to help in any way possible, I've teamed up with my good friend and Advocacy Coordinator Gina John for a Q&A blog post on the Dream Act to learn more and find out how we can all help. Her team is also putting together a panel on Wednesday, November 15th from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in downtown Memphis at the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education.
1) Who does the Dream Act affect? How many?
The Dream Act affects all Americans! As MLK said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." Outside of the ethical implications, not passing the Dream Act has some serious consequences that only compound yearly. The data shows that 91 percent of respondents are currently employed. Among respondents age 25 and older, employment jumps to 93 percent. That's a lot of skilled workers that businesses need to now replace, and a lot of expendable income that isn't being earned and put back into the economy.
But that's probably not the answer you were looking for. The Dream Act and DACA are for children who were brought to the U.S. without documentation. These programs were proposed because these young people realized they were undocumented when it came time for them to apply for jobs, driver's licenses, and college. Without proper documentation, those things become exponentially harder. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was an Executive Order by President Obama that gave undocumented young people who qualified a 2-year renewable work permit, in TN, a driver's license, and most importantly, protected them from deportation. (Seems like the least we could do, since most of them have been in this country since they were kids, don't remember where they came from, and are as American as the rest of us.)
DACA was rescinded September 5th by our current President leaving 800,000 young people nationally and 8,300+ young people in TN without the protections that they were granted. The Dream Act will not only directly affect them and provide them with a path to citizenship which DACA did not provide, it also has provisions for a larger age group making the grand total of people affected around 2.1 million people. Not to mention their families and friends, businesses that employ them, businesses they are customers in, healthcare, education, legal professions...the list goes on.
2) What can I do to help?
The biggest push nationally is to contact your U.S. state senators and the U.S. House of Representatives representatives for your district since immigration is a federal issue. Facebook has an awesome feature called 'Town Hall' which will actually tell you who your Senators and Representatives are. If not, there are other means to find out who represents your interests federally. Contact them and let them know how you feel about this issue. Do your research, come to events that local organizations are putting on, and be heard on issues like this one. Civic engagement is what causes the changes that we have been seeing as
of late in local government, so be engaged!
If you are someone in a position of authority in some way, use your voice! Teachers, there are letters going around that you can sign, and the same goes for small and large business owners. Are you a supervisor? Tell your staff about what’s going on and promote inclusive policies within your team. Take to the streets with local organizations/DREAMer (the name given to the large group of DACA recipients/undocumented youth) groups, and join peaceful protests that make the larger population aware of the injustices that are taking place with these youth and promote change. You could also donate to organizations that are doing this work. Most importantly, be kind. These are really trying times for a lot of Americans and knowing that people support what they are going through does make a difference.
Note: Be conscious of the words that you are using when talking about issues relating to immigrant youth. There is no compromise when it comes to their families. There is rhetoric around this issue that says holding the children responsible for the “mistakes” of their parents is not fair. The parents should be punished and not the children. Sure, it sounds fine in theory, but in reality, taking away the parents of the young people IS punishing them. You can’t support the growth of these individuals and tear apart their families all at the same time. Also, consider WHY the parents came to this country in the first place. We as a nation of systems is not kind to the undocumented immigrant, yet people still come here. Whatever they are going through in their home country that constantly being vigilant of their surroundings and living life in the shadows is BETTER than where they came from. They deserve better because they are as human as everyone else. This is why organizations that are advocating for the Dream Act are using the words clean Dream Act to signify that no system that breaks families apart should be tied to the Act, keeping it clean.
Watch this video.
3) Where can I help?
I answered a lot of this question above, but if you’re in the Memphis area, Latino Memphis is a great place to start. We have an event next week that features a senior policy analyst from the Migration Policy Institute who will discuss their paper on the Dream Act of 2017 and how it compares to other proposals. There will be a panel discussion with local leaders including a DACA recipient and Q&A after, and to conclude, presidents of local universities will be signing a letter of support for the Dream Act. Come and learn!
4) What is the deadline?
The deadline is now! After the September 5th rescission, recipients with DACA that expired before March 5, 2018 had to renew before October 5, 2017. If their DACA expired after March 5, they could not renew. Due to the arbitrary timing of the October renewal date, costs of legal fees and the DACA renewal fee, and a number of other factors, 22,000 DACA recipients were not able to renew their DACA. That means that people are losing their DACA TODAY.
Anything else you'd like to add?
There are a ton of resources out there about this topic, but particularly if you’re in the Memphis area, look out for our website that is entirely dedicated to the Dream Act (link coming soon)!
The Future of Daca - Panel Discussion
Wednesday, November 15 / 5:30 - 8 pm / Halloran Centre / Free
For those of you in the Memphis area that would like to attend the DACA Panel on Wednesday, 11/15 you must sign up by Tuesday 11/14. Please follow this link to sign up and see all the details of the event.