In a powerful new piece for Arizona Republic, Maxima Guerrero, a DACA-recipient, community organizer and Arizona State University student, reflects on her role in the long battle for comprehensive immigration reform and Congress’ exploitation of Dreamers. Instead of passing legislation to protect the Dreamer population, Congress has withheld legislation to use the cohort as bargaining chips. She calls on all of us to fight for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.
It’s been seven years since Congress tried and failed to approve the DREAM Act, a bipartisan federal legislation that would have provided a pathway to legalization for undocumented youth.
Then, I was a 20-year-old undocumented student paying out-of-state tuition at Phoenix College, camping daily on a sidewalk outside Sen. John McCain’s office. We believed that if he saw and heard the stories of undocumented youth we could convince him to support the DREAM Act that December.
After spending the holidays outside McCain’s office, the House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act. When the bill was up for a Senate vote, we gathered anxiously around the livestream on a laptop outside McCain’s office. He filibustered, and with five Democrats voting against the DREAM Act our young organizer dreams were shattered.
Our new reality: Becoming bargaining chips
A new reality hit.
A reality that as ‘dreamers,’ undocumented youth who arrived in the U.S. as minors, we would be used as a bargaining chip in politics for years to come.
It has always been easy to talk about fixing the broken immigration system while using dreamers as a political tool. We contribute to this country. It is our home, and many of us were brought here, or arrived with a visa, as young as 2 or 5 years old.
Now, as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program faces its biggest threat, Dreamers have renewed hope for protection with the bipartisan Durbin-Graham Dream Act, but it’s not enough. As Guerrero explains, Dreamers need protections for their parents:
People like me would undoubtedly benefit if this legislation becomes law. But we’re facing another reality: Family can still be deported.
Clearly, the Trump administration will continue to deport undocumented immigrants. We need comprehensive immigration reform. But how can we do it? What are the lessons for us dreamers?
Are we going to control the narrative or allow politicians to criminalize our parents as scapegoats for the 2018 election?
We have to make the call as the sons and daughters of our parents, not the adopted sons and daughters of politicians. We live in a militarized border state, and Trump plans to hire 15,000 more border patrol agents. There is talk of a wall with Mexico and ending sanctuary cities.
In seven years, I’ve seen families separated. I’ve seen stop deportation campaigns and know your rights workshops.
I’ve much more to learn, but I am willing to apply what I’ve learned about politics into the playing field we are given today. I know what’s at stake.
In the end, we want what you want
I’m blessed to count on a resilient community that grew from withstanding Senate Bill 1070, Arizona’s anti-immigration law. We are the people directly impacted, so we must be the ones to shape our narrative and to have each other’s back.
We’re changing the narrative by highlighting the important contributions of our immigrant parents. We must emphasize ours and our parents’ human characteristics and core American values.
What else can we do? We will continue to organize for change and less criminalization against all immigrants, not just “the good immigrant.
We want the same thing other hard working Americans want: The opportunity to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Read the full piece online here.