Updated: Sep 8
By: Jigmey Dorjee
Protesters show support for the Dream Act (Photo Credits: https://edtrust.org/the-equity-line/dream-act-students-unlimited-potential/)
We often hear the term “dreamers” in the ongoing debate surrounding undocumented immigrants. But what does this term mean and what is its history? Dreamers are referred to as young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States by a parent or guardian as children. They get their name from the DREAM Act – The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act – which is a proposal that grants temporary residency and the right to work to undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as minors. Although the bill was first introduced in 2001 by Senators Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch, it has been reintroduced numerous times and has never passed through both houses. The 2010 Dream Act aimed to protect immigrant students – who entered the United States as children and have since resided in the country – from deportation. However, this Act has only ever passed the House and failed to pass the Senate.
Why is this important?
The Dream Act addresses the ethical issue of whether or not undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States, grew up here, and are unable to permanently reside in the country, should be deported to their home country. According to the American Psychological Association, one million undocumented minors were estimated to live in the United States out of 11.1 million undocumented immigrants back in 2010. Although this data has changed over time, it’s no doubt that millions of undocumented youth today still face isolation from their peers, academic struggles, fears of deportation, and trauma from family separation. In the midst of all this debate and discussion, young people have taken action by creating Dream Team clubs in their schools and on college campuses.
Dream Teams are student-led clubs that advocate for immigrant rights and aim to create a secure and welcoming environment for undocumented immigrants. According to the New York State Youth Leadership Council, the first organization in New York led by undocumented youth, the first Dream Team, was created at Lehman College in 2010, and at Flushing International High School in 2011. Today, we see Dream Teams on a variety of campuses that aim to spread immigrant awareness and support undocumented youth.
One particular example is Bard High School Early College Queens’ Dream Team, which has accomplished a lot for immigrant advocacy ever since it was founded in 2017. Genesis, one of the club leaders, states: “The Dream Team at BHSECQ works to amplify the voices of undocumented people and students in our community. We have organized many events and fundraisers over the past couple of years that work towards that goal and have met with many politicians in NYC to fight for immigrant rights on a wider scale.” Just earlier this year, the club hosted a Resource Drive and collected items ranging from hygiene products to warm clothing for migrant families living in Long Island City. The club has its own student-run magazine and blog called Immigrant Voices in which students and faculty submit their writing, poetry, or art relating to immigration. Not only that, the club raises money for the HOPE (Helping Our People with Education) Scholarship, founded by a BHSECQ alumna in 2017, which helps undocumented students at BHSECQ pay for their college tuition. Since undocumented students are ineligible for federal aid, those who come from low-income backgrounds find that paying for college tuition is almost impossible. With this hardship in mind, the HOPE scholarship has raised over $10,000 through donations and continues to ambitiously serve BHSECQ’s undocumented graduates.
Some people might assume that school-based fundraisers or advocacy don’t accomplish much but it’s important to realize that, even with a tiny bit of support, they go a long way. Dream Teams around the country have destigmatized the topic of undocumented immigrants and continue to provide a lot for undocumented students– something that even Congress struggles to provide. With that in mind, be sure to support your local Dream Team in any way that you can whether that’s by attending a club meeting, organizing a fundraiser, or donating any goods.