Dreamers: Citizens Without a Homeland

By Imagining America | September 13, 2017

By Araceli Calderón, a Doctoral Candidate in Department of Spanish and Portuguese with a Visual Studies and Latin American Studies Emphasis at the University of California, Irvine, and a 2017-2018 Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellow. This PAGE Blog Salon explores themes of intersectionality and public scholarship, important topics of the upcoming Imagining America national conference, Oct. 12-14, 2017, in Davis, California.

“They are Americans in their hearts, their minds, in every single way except one – on paper.” Barack Obama

What does democracy, social justice and equality mean—in an inclusive and fully participatory sense? Due to the current political events of the country, I feel an urge to direct my response to the situation faced by students affected by the recently rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The program gives legal status to ‘dreamers’, children who were brought to this country at an early age with the hope of being provided a better quality of life, to have a chance at brighter future. Among other benefits, the program gives these students an opportunity to work and go to school in the United States. However, the motion to revoke DACA on September 5, 2017, created an upheaval of emotions, insecurity, and fear. DACA students are Americans who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect because they are constructive members of our society. Due to the uncertainty of their legal situation, there is a deep concern with the rhetoric that edifies a wall of civil wrongs that alienates them. Despite having adopted this country as their own, they are denied full protection of citizenship rights, they are marginalized and penalized for a decision that was not their own. Some politicians have used America’s political and economic dimensions to demean, devalue and misrecognize the importance of dreamers as fundamental members of our society. As such, this misrecognition perpetuates the axis of injustices and oppression due to the lack of an immigration policy that provides a just, humane and permanent solution for DACA students.

They are what I call unrecognized citizens, stripped of any citizenship because they reside in limbo within democratic and political platforms. “This country is my home” is what we hear over and again from ‘dreamers’ when referring to America. Yet, in many ways, violence is exercised against them because they have been deprived of citizenship. For them, democracy would entail their recognition as citizens of this country in order to have formal legal equality and access to the American Dream. Nationally and internationally, we have seen an increment in the stigmatic marks of immigrants, especially those that target fundamental issues of equality and justice. I propose that we create a new paradigm that recognizes DACA students’ engagement and their importance to our society due to their undeniable integration. We need a new political direction that promotes a sense of justice and equity through the valorization of their sense of identity. Their cultural diversity, representation, interpretation, communication, and transformation are essential to the economic, social, and cultural growth of our society.

I am hopeful that, as a society, we find a dimension of justice to resolve the pressing problem that affects DACA recipients, eight hundred thousand, who have been affected in unimagined ways. We need to unite and resist to such injustice and wretchedness. Silence is not an option. How do we negotiate a healing process and resistance? How do we, as active and publicly engaged scholars, reconcile our public and academic engagement with this situation?