The Broken Dream: Immigration in America and the DACA Dreamer’s Act

A few months after my student, Azucena Rodriguez, graduated, I was still thinking about her and contacted her about doing a story and photo shoot. She happily agreed and came in to see me again with her children. When I met Fabian, Cruz, and Miranda today, it was only the second time I had met them. In the near 40 shots from our photo shoot, they huddled close to their mother and glared at me. They didn’t fully trust me but, more importantly, they wanted to protect their mother.

This is not the story that I set out to write, but it is the story that came to me.

Born in Mexico, Azucena came to the United States as a child–a Dreamer of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Though she never asked to come, she is thankful for America because she has been able to pursue a better quality of life here than in her home country. Contrary to popular opinion, Azucena gets nothing out of DACA. There are no free government aid programs that she qualifies for. All she gets out of it is the right to continue to apply for a work visa to stay in this country. That’s something that has become even more important to her as an adult since she is married with three children born in the United States.

“Even though my children are born in the United States (and citizens here), we would get kicked out and separated if the current administration ends DACA. Many families leave their kids behind so they can have a better life here,” Azucena said, “but I will not be separated from my children. I would take them with me. In Mexico, however, they would not be eligible to go to school or get any sort of health care.” –Azucena Rodriguez

What kind of life is that for an American Citizen?

When I met Fabian, Cruz, and Miranda today, it was only the second time I had met them. I tried to imagine what it was like to grow up with a mom that is always gone for school or work, a mom that the government can decide to take away in an instant because of what a piece of paper says about her. If I had to live with the constant threat of losing my mother, I would probably glare at an aristocratic-looking white woman too. If words on a paper are enough to identify what should happen to a person, then I would hope these words on this paper mean something too.

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These are the faces of real people, readers. These are the faces of hard-working people that want a better life for themselves in America–the same way my European ancestors did centuries before me when they came here.

Not all illegals crossing the border came here to hurt us and NONE deserve to be kept in cages apart from their families on a non-existent wall. What we are doing is nothing less than what we did to the Japanese-Americans during WWII; those are camps, people, not cages. They were inhumane then and they are inhumane now.

Yes, we need border security, but we also need a fair path for immigrants to become citizens. Azucena grew up in America and only knows it as her home country BUT she can’t become a citizen here. As the law stands now, she has to wait for one of her own kids to turn 18 and choose to sponsor her citizenship in America. Is this what fair citizenship rules look like?

I wonder where any of us would be if our ancestors were treated like we treat the Dreamers today. Only the Native Americans can claim they sprouted from this continent and very few of us Americans can prove even a thimble-full of their blood.

“…Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door! –from “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus

Have we forgotten who we are, America? What enemy, real or imagined, could ever inspire us to treat each other the way we treat each other now?

Do We Love To Hate Or Hate To Love?

“I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart.”–Nelson Mandela

I have always played my political cards close to my vest. I don’t advertise my party affiliations not because I am embarrassed of the person I voted for in our last Presidential election but because I have learned that doing so brews hatred. For similar reasons, I avoid watching the news. Nevertheless, I don’t have to monitor my Twitter feed to catch the pulse of our nation; I read it every time I enter my classroom.

My students are over saturated in news media. They are constantly watching and reading about people on social media and streaming channels. This does not mean, however, that their education is a quality one. They know more about George Michaels than they do about George Washington.

What are they really learning?

What are they really watching?

My nieces–who are still between the ages of 7 and 13–recently showed me some shows they were watching on YouTube. In the show, blocky Minecraft-like characters wobble around hitting each other while screaming and laughing and singing silly songs. The show is supposedly made by video gamers sharing their “craft”, but it has no substantial value. It does not encourage craft in gaming. It does not encourage healthy social behavior. It does not help my nieces become better human beings. I have seen some adults watch the same types of shows and games and call it “informative”. At the risk of sounding like an old-fashioned, out-of-touch person on a rant, let me just tell you that it is mind-numbing crap.

There are voices out there on the internet to fit any slant you want to hook into and believe–in any language you want to hear it in. If you think the government is corrupt and out to hurt you, there are websites and shows you can watch to support that point of view. If you think one racial group is always the enemy of another group, there are plenty of channels to support your view. Several guest speakers are lining up to help you rally a protest on that idea too. If you think the media is biased and corrupt, go underground and find an unfiltered channel sneaking out the “real truth” to you. If you care little about the rest of the world, that’s okay too; Hallmark has some nice, happy endings for you.

No matter where you sit in the spectrum of perspectives I just mentioned, you have a place in the United States of America, and that place is protected by the first amendment of the Constitution. If you have never heard about the Constitution of the United States, if you have never read it, Google it; it’s online too. Before you burn that flag or bend a knee during the National Anthem or spit on all things American again, realize men and women have a long history of fighting and dying for your freedom to do just that in this country. If you protest a country that gives you the freedom to protest, what exactly is your point? And if you hate this country so much, why are you in it?

So much of what I see today is angry people with no sense of their human history. History should be our friend and allie, not the thing we avoid like the Black Plague. Instead of blindly believing the many filtered voices offering “truth”, we should all pursue truth from the source. Watch the speech and read the document; don’t just accept what others tell you about it. Don’t just spout racist ideals like bullies in a school yard when you don’t even understand half the words you are using.

What started all this anger, and what fed it into a raging wildfire? I believe it started in childhood with the way we chose to raise our children.

Right now, generations are closer in age then they have ever been before. Children are raising children who are raising children. Clueless, overwhelmed adolescents leave babies to parent themselves through devices and social media. Those babies grow up without social skills or the confidence that the world is their oyster. For them, the world is against them and every person in it is set out to hurt them. They stumble into adolescence and adulthood, get pregnant, and repeat the cycle of what happened to them. They seek to redeem their world through the spoilage of their child and end up acting more like a friend to them then a parent. If I were raised like this, I’d be angry too.

How can we stop the cycle?

How can we show each other more love than hate?