My father walked off a boat in 1923 and checked in at Ellis Island. He was a black man. His path to citizenship couldn’t have been easy. But he wasn’t forced to hide in the shadows, worrying that he might be deported to Barbados. He was able to pursue his dream and become an American journalist.
Alejandro Morales, Ola Kaso, Jose Patino and Erika Andiola have not enjoyed that privilege. They came with their families as children to the United States, the only country they know as home. They are the embodiment of the American Dream. They’ve been good citizens, great family members and excellent students. Yet their dreams have been deferred by an America that refuses to fully embrace them.
Morales, Kaso, Patino and Andiola are the subjects of a new documentary The Dream is Now, which chronicles these young people’s efforts to earn their citizenship.
Morales has wanted to be a Marine since eighth grade, but he can’t without a Social Security number.
Patino, who graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in mechanical engineering, works low-skilled construction jobs because he can’t get hired as an engineer.
Kaso wants to become an oncologist and was accepted to the University of Michigan, but her future was put on hold while her family’s status was reviewed. During a routine meeting with immigration officials, she was handcuffed to a chair in a basement hallway of a detention center for several hours.
Andiola, who has met with everybody from Sen. John McCain to White House adviser Valerie Jarrett as an advocate for the Dream Act, was granted permission to work, but her mother was put on a bus headed for Mexico — in chains.
The film is part of a movement of the same name launched by Laurene Powell Jobs and her organization, the Emerson Collective. Produced by award-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, The Dream is Now, also places their struggles in an historical context. It’s the next battle in the civil rights movement.
Recently, the Associated Press changed its stylebook to include this proviso: “Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant.”
I appreciate the spirit of the AP’s decision. Words have power, and that’s the point. But what I would appreciate even more is for America to stop criminalizing our children.
And yes, Morales, Kaso, Patino and Andiola and other “Dreamers” are our children.
Watch the film. Join their movement.