Not Every Immigrant is a ‘Dreamer’ But All of Them Have Dreams

Not Every Immigrant is a ‘Dreamer’ But All of Them Have Dreams

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For immigration reform to mean anything it’s got to make it easier for all undocumented immigrants to regularize their status in the United States — not just DREAM-Act eligible young people.

Yes, the “Dreamers” are, and have been for some time, immigration advocate darlings. This is not unearned. By and large they are articulate, photogenic, full of promise and hard to dismiss as “foreign invaders” since they are pretty thoroughly Americanized. Way back in earlier days of the immigration reform movement, the rationale in separating the fight for passage of the DREAM-Act from the rest of the reform efforts hinged on this image.

Or, to put in more bluntly, the Dreamers are the sympathetic undocumented immigrants.

They themselves have helped their cause by showing their faces, telling their stories, being “undocumented and unafraid.” We heartily disagree with Washington Post columnist Ruben Navarrette’s assertions that the Dreamers are the poster children for entitlement thinking. As our cover story this week about the Dream 9 indicates, this in-your-face, “undocumented and unafraid” activism has been, in many ways, the latest in the continuum of civil rights struggles to dismantle unjust law and policy in our nation. It takes courage and idealism — the opposite of entitled thinking — to risk stopping traffic, staging sit-ins at government offices, demanding rights for those in detention and defying deportation.

But even the Dreamers themselves admit they’ve got it easier than other undocumented folk. At least Philadelphia’s own Dreamers Erika Nuñez, Sheila Quintana, Cesar and Fernanda Marroquin and Tania Chaírez said as much last year as they sat in the offices of AL DÍA being interviewed for a cover story. Like other Dreamers who have received an education and attained some economic stability because of the hard work and aspirations of their undocumented parents, they understand they have privileges that those still working and striving in the shadows do not.

In the case of the Dream 9, who crossed the border as a challenge to the Obama administration’s ongoing deportations, this privilege has manifested in the recent approval of the first step in their requests for asylum — their fears of the possibility of persecution have been found “credible” by the Department of Homeland Security. It has long been a matter of contention that undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America have to produce near-impossible documentation of threat to be accorded asylum in the U.S. The fact that the Dream 9 have attained that first marker is a measure of both their popular appeal (despite some vocal critics) and the efficacy of their act of civil disobedience.

We hope the Dream 9 are able to legalize their status, and that they are accorded a way to become U.S. citizens within a reasonable amount of time: the five years offered by the Senate’s immigration bill for DREAM-Act eligible young people, rather than then 13+ years laid out as a possibility for non-Dreamers.

But what we’d like even better is if non-Dreamers were also offered a reasonable five-year wait time.

The photos that accompany this editorial are of immigrants who are not “Dreamers,” but still came to the nation with dreams. One is a pastor with 20+ years serving the Philadelphia community. One is a young mother whose deportation would be to a country with one of the highest femicide rates in the Western Hemisphere. The third is a hard-working baker who finds time to help other immigrants. Though stays of deportation have been lifesavers for them and others in Philadelphia, they, too, deserve a reasonable path to legalization and citizenship so they can live out their dreams here, with loved ones.

Whatever immigration reform we are able to get approved in Congress must have sympathy for all immigrants — not just our favorites — at its heart.