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Immigration 101: What is a Dreamer?


What is a Dreamer? When it comes to immigration reform, a “Dreamer” (often spelled “DREAMer”) refers to a young person who qualifies for the DREAM Act.


The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) is a piece of legislation first introduced to congress in 2001 that grants a pathway to citizenship to young people who were brought to the United States as children without documentation. These are young people who are American in every way except on paper. They have grown up in this country and consider themselves to be American, but lack the documents to fully engage in society

After Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act in 2010 despite 70% of Americans supporting the proposed legislation,  President Obama in 2012 announced a temporary program that allows Dreamers to come forward, pass a background check, and apply for work permits. The program is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA for short.

DACA allowed nearly a million young people to come out of the shadows, work legally, and live without fear of deportation. It is widely considered to be one of President Obama’s most popular programs. It helped to drive economic growth, keep families together, promote education and community integration, and strengthen civic ties throughout the country. However, Dreamers were still not provided a pathway to citizenship under the program. And, since it was created through an executive order, presidents after Obama could rescind it at any time.

Trump and DACA

A recent poll from Global Strategy Group found that by more than a 2:1 margin, 58%-28%, Americans oppose an effort to repeal DACA.

President Trump and his Administration have gone both ways on DACA, promising both to “immediately terminate” it, and saying that he has “a big heart” on the issue. Since his inauguration, however, more than a dozen Dreamers have been arrested, detained, and (in some cases) released. Trump arrested Daniel Ramirez Medina after claiming that Daniel was part of a gang, when he was not. He also arrested Daniela Vargas, who was not detained until she spoke out about her case. And he deported Juan Manuel, a Dreamer with active DACA, who was removed just a few hours after he was first picked up.

That’s why one of the most important immigration fights with the Trump administration will center on the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and the 1.9 million DACA-eligible young people across America who could benefit from it.

The Future of DACA

America asked young undocumented people to trust their government, step forward and apply for DACA in order to be able to work legally, feel safe, and contribute the country they call home. Now, the President, some of his Cabinet nominees, and most others in the GOP are saying that we should betray that trust, revoke work permits and people’s livelihoods, once again subjecting these young people to deportation.

There are even fears that DACA recipients’ information provided to the government during the application process could be used by the Trump Administration to facilitate enforcement. This is unacceptable.

Everyday, brave men, women, and children continue to stand up and speak out on behalf of themselves and their families. They remind us what it means to be American. This is their home and they are here to stay. Now, our leaders in Washington need to recognize this reality.

What is a Dreamer? More Resources