Dreamer Narratives Help Immigrant Youth Far From Big Activist Hubs

OC DREAM Team’s long-retired logo

By Gerson Cortes, (Guest columnist) 

I first joined the DREAM movement at the end of 2010, right after the DREAM Act failed to pass through the Senate. For months, activists burned themselves out organizing actions in support of the legislation, even putting themselves in danger to make their needs visible. They got attacked by right-wingers for being “entitled illegals” and by respected mentors for being selfish DREAMers. And still they pushed for the most tangible solution available at the time.

Graduation caps and gowns became symbols of the movement and 4.0 GPAs, its battle cries. When undocumented immigrants got branded as “leeches on the system,” taking public benefits and not contributing to this country, the most radical thing to do was to disprove the lies. We forgot that those lies were used–and continue to be used–to attack and deny us of basic human rights like healthcare, housing security, and all that encompasses the lofty pursuit of happiness.

In the years that followed the DREAM Act’s demise, college-educated immigrant activists in Southern California and other metro areas began rethinking the whole “DREAMer” narrative. The term spoke of elitism and created an unattainable standard of what a “good” immigrant is supposed to be. In the public’s eye, it created a division between undocumented immigrants that deserved respect, and the “illegals” who got no empathy when torn away from their families. Some DREAMers started to believe this too, willing to accept harsh immigration policies that would make our parents’ lives harder, if it meant a path to citizenship for “the good ones.”

Being “woke” meant no longer being a DREAMer.

I moved out of Orange County to finish my undergraduate degree when dropping the “D” word started popping up on my social media feeds and I brought that message into a small city surrounded by miles of farms in Northern California.

It proved to be a sobering wake up call.

The “DREAMer” narrative isn’t a philosophical debate on respectability politics here. For many, it’s the only way to cautiously ask for help when navigating school, healthcare, and other systems where your status is brought up. By the time it became passé in the marches back home,  the slogan “Undocumented and Unafraid” hadn’t even been chanted here yet. My university didn’t have its first “Coming Out of the Shadows” event until 2018, and even then, some undocumented students asked allies to read their written stories aloud because they couldn’t bring themselves to be on stage. Here, some still find “DREAMers” too radical and too visible to feel comfortable stepping into spaces designed for undocumented youth.

This is happening in California. This isn’t a remote town in Idaho, or a community in the Deep South. When surrounded by discussions on immigration, when professionals are more likely to know how to deal with your status, when there’s more than one group in your city working for immigrant rights, it can be easy to forget that the rest of the country does not reflect your reality.

I’ve since graduated and continue to live in Northern California where a real need for immigration advocacy remains. Although I still use “undocumented” when discussing my personal status and talking about immigration issues, I stopped pushing to drop the “DREAMer” narrative; at least here, and in other places, where it may be the only way a scared kid can feel safe enough to ask for help.

Deport This! is a partnership between OC Weekly, Chispa and Orange County Immigrant Youth United. The column is a rebuttal of Donald Trump’s racist politics and his OC cheerleaders, who’ll no doubt get triggered every week with news and views by and about the undocumented community.

One Reply to “Dreamer Narratives Help Immigrant Youth Far From Big Activist Hubs”

  1. My immigration infomercial:

    SANCTUARY CITIES: What a place to start a family. Illegal aliens, gang members, felons fleeing ICE are your neighbors. Emergency services Taxpayer pay for every police, fire, paramedic service call for illegal aliens in their city. Taxpayers pay for all hospital, emergency room treatments, ambulances, medications. Hospital wait times for citizens are negatively impacted.

    THE STAMPEDE:
    Its Trumps fault!!! LOL. Democrats offer rewards, incentives so…..More caravans on the way. The current migration at our border is costing U.S taxpayers a Kings ransom. Fleeing persecution? or fleeing for freebies? they sure don’t stay in Mexico when they reach “safety” or ask or offered political asylum in Mexico. Why? because Mexico will give them NOTHING. So they make the long journey to our border, our generous Democrats, and our tax dollars. Notice how many have made the long, difficult, dangerous journey to our country 8-9 months pregnant? Give birth on American soil and the U.S. taxpayers will not only pay for the birth of you’re child but will also give you state government assistance.

    THE WALL:
    The Border Patrol, DHS, ICE our Military & the Army Corps of Engineers have all endorsed the need for a wall numerous times almost nightly. However, immigration experts Nancy Pelosi & Chuck Schumer disagree, saying the wall won’t work, oh and they also have zero ideas. I’ll go with the opinions of the border patrol not open borders crowd. Barrack Obama’s own border patrol chief, Mark Morgan, has repeatedly stated that walls work. They free up resources to focus on the points of entrances so they can detect more contraband and illegals. Check out the wall on youtube.

    TPS / DACA
    To Democrats/Progressives/Socialists (whats the difference?) programs like Temporary Protective Status (TPS) or Deferred Action For Childhood arrivals (DACA) are permanent programs….there is nothing “temporary or deferred.” These programs are designed to admit refugees (usually from the third world) then Democrats fight to keep them here permanently using the charge of racism, religion, guilt against anyone opposed. Simple formula works great.

    THE PRICE:
    Democrats view U.S. citizens as acceptable collateral damage to their future long range goals of flooding the country with refugees & illegal aliens and having taxpayers paying the cost. Democrat politicians and their voters have put families at risk of being victimized by illegal aliens as in the cases Kate Steinly (nothing done) then…. Mollie Tibbetts, (nothing done) and now, Police Cpl. Ronil Singh nothing will be done…who’s next? These victims would be alive today if our border was secured. Google search “illegal alien crime” or “victims.” try not to puke the list is unbelievable. Preventable victimization’s.

    Just a few examples of the more outrageous costs associated with illegal immigration, we will pass this burden on to our children & grand children as has been passed on to us.

    *Congress is debating DACA and is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Thank the parents and Barrack Obama.

    *Cost of educating illegal aliens is staggering. From K-12 it costs taxpayers on average $122,000 for EACH illegal alien student. This does not include the millions spent on bilingual ED, instructors, special need children & day care. School class size are negatively impacted by illegal aliens and our students suffer as a result.

    *Taxpayers in some states are funding “in state college tuition” discounts for illegal aliens. (AZ voted to terminate this taxpayer expense.) Cost to taxpayers over a billion dollars annually.

    *About one in five inmates in federal prison are foreign-born, and more than 90 percent of those are in the United States illegally. This does not include local jails and state prisons. At roughly $24,000 per year expense per inmate.

    *$3Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate, process Illegal aliens in the criminal justice system.

    *Every child birth by illegal aliens in the U.S is paid for with tax dollars.In the US, the average cost to have a baby without complications during delivery, is $10,808, which can increase to $30,000 when factoring in care provided before and after pregnancy (July 9, 2018 google.)

    * Section 8 housing. Illegal aliens take full advantage of this program. Citizens in poverty in many cases wait years because of non citizens for housing.

    *$2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on is spent on food assistance programs such as SNAP, WIC, & taxpayer funded school lunches. Visit youtube search “cost of illegal immigration.”

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