Columnist Razvan Sibii: Ten years later, the Dreamers are still in limbo

Almost exactly 10 years ago, having failed to convince enough Republicans in Congress to pass the DREAM Act, President Obama signed an ex...

Almost exactly 10 years ago, having failed to convince enough Republicans in Congress to pass the DREAM Act, President Obama signed an executive order protecting some undocumented immigrants from deportation and granting them work authorization. . Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), as the policy was known, recognized that people who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents are themselves guilty of nothing and do not deserve being uprooted from their communities and deported to countries they barely remember, if at all. (Not to mention the myriad benefits these communities derive from the presence of these immigrants).

The law did not cover all individuals who fit this description, as it came with several strict caveats from the outset, but at least 600,000 young American residents (the so-called “Dreamers”) were able to get out of the law. shadow and get the jobs they were qualified for. Even though executive orders are notoriously flawed, DACA has miraculously withstood four years of legal challenges from the Trump administration and continues to make life livable for hundreds of thousands of previously undocumented immigrants. But the vast majority of these individuals are no longer children, and they would appreciate it if America could finally decide whether or not it wants them as citizens.

I recently spoke to one of my former students at UMass, a DACA recipient, and asked if he hoped his tenuous decade-long legal protection would one day turn into a path to citizenship. He is, but his hope is cautious. A year into a Biden administration that has yet to meaningfully implement immigration reform, Miguel (not his real name) is ready for anything.

He was brought to the United States by his parents when he was 2 years old. “My family was not doing well economically,” he explained. “And my uncle told his brothers to come to the United States because there are great opportunities here – the American dream. And so we went to New Jersey. We lived as four or five families in a house. There were cockroaches and rats. We lived in the attic. We had no beds. We slept on the floor. And during our first week in the United States, our neighbors called the police, because they saw that I didn’t have a bed. They came to our house and they said that if they didn’t see a bed that I could sleep in, I would be taken away from my family. And so my parents found a way to working and being able to afford a bed, and from there we were able to progress and get out of that building.

Back in Ecuador, Miguel’s father had run a sports store and his mother had a degree in computer science. In New Jersey, however, they worked in factories and were paid under the table. They moved to Massachusetts after a few years in search of a less violent community for their son. Miguel was in high school when Obama announced the DACA protections.

“I thought I was an American until everyone got their driver’s license and I couldn’t,” he said. “My friends were like, ‘Miguel, why don’t you get your license?’ I was just telling them I wasn’t ready yet, I didn’t want to tell them I was undocumented.

He was able to apply for DACA in his freshman year and then get his driver’s license. He attended community college and later transferred to UMass. Domestically, his legal papers now helped him insure the car and rent a house.

“I had to mature at an early stage in my life and not do anything wrong. Everything I did had to be right. If there was ever anything insignificant, every member of my family could be deported. When Trump became president, it was one of the most stressful years of our lives. I would study at UMass and also worry about my parents getting pulled over by the police because they don’t have a driver’s license. What if I’m at UMass while ICE is on? Miguel said.

Biden’s election was a relief. “We were like, ‘Maybe we’ll have a path to citizenship.’ But now I don’t know. I feel like it’s just a political game. We’re just used, just tossed around. I tried not to follow politics, just for my sanity,” he said.

As the Dreamers saga continues to wind through the halls of the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court, it is Miguel’s parents who may soon be set free. Miguel’s American-born younger sister, who is now a student at UMass, will be able to sponsor her parents’ change in status when she turns 21. This is only possible because, all those years ago, they did not enter the United States illegally, but rather came with a valid visa which they then overstayed. Illegal entry into the United States is a federal offense; overstaying your visa is not.

Miguel said his parents regretted coming to the United States during the early years, because of the conditions the family had to live in. “But now seeing that I have a college education and my sister also attends UMass, they see the results of their sacrifice,” he said.

At the end of our interview, I asked Miguel why he had requested anonymity. What exactly was he afraid of? His answer: “In case Trump becomes president again.”

Razvan Sibii is an associate professor of journalism at UMass Amherst. He writes a monthly column on immigration and incarceration. He can be contacted at

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Newsrust - US Top News: Columnist Razvan Sibii: Ten years later, the Dreamers are still in limbo
Columnist Razvan Sibii: Ten years later, the Dreamers are still in limbo
Newsrust - US Top News
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