National Coming Out of the Shadows Week: Why We Should Listen When DREAMers Tell Their Stories
This week is National Coming Out of the Shadows Week, a time when DREAMers from across the country bravely come forward at local rallies and events to disclose their personal stories as undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
Considering the political climate surrounding immigration policy as of late, coming out for young undocumented immigrants is no small feat. In the last two years, the number of anti-immigrant bills that passed in state legislatures spiked. Since 2010, 164 anti-immigrant bills have been codified into law across the nation, varying in their reach to control immigration—from mandating that businesses use the error-prone employment verification system called E-Verify to restrictions on driver’s license eligibility. It’s no coincidence these laws proliferate as the debate on immigration intensifies on the national level, specifically on the politics of the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform.
Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah have been the worst offenders. Each passed Arizona copycats—laws aimed to make life impossible for undocumented people and their families. Alabama’s HB 56, for example, originally criminalized immigrants for satisfying their most basic needs—like obtaining drinking water within the home, for example when they blocked businesses from providing water supply service to the undocumented. Last week, a higher court blocked this provision.
Despite these efforts to debase the immigrant community, the movement has kept its momentum on the upswing. Last year, a state-based financial aid bill for undocumented student passed in California, and Maryland also approved a higher education-related provision, allowing students to pay the same in-state tuition their citizen counterparts enjoyed. The youth in Florida filled the halls of the state house to protest, and defeated an Arizona copycat from passing the state’s legislature. And who could forget the countless direct-action protests led by DREAMers that raised national attention to anti-immigrant state legislation and Obama’s deportation record?
Immigrant youth played a critical leadership role in winning all these important battles.
But the fight is far from over.
A damning report released by the Justice Department late last year revealed blatant racial profiling and abusive policing by local law enforcement in Maricopa County, Arizona, which were facilitated by state laws like SB 1070 and federal programs like Secure Communities. The report also revealed that immigration status played a small role for many victimized by the predatory policing.
Political assaults on undocumented people are assaults on immigrants, communities of color, and all Americans. They reach our friends, our families, and our neighbors considering that 9 million people belong to families that have “mixed immigration status.”
The extent to which they are impacted by draconian anti-immigrant policies cannot be under-emphasized; the fact that DREAMers have been at the forefront in challenging these assaults on immigrants and communities of color cannot be underestimated or taken for granted. Undocumented immigrants who rise to share their status and their stories fearlessly in the face of racist policing, dehumanizing public rhetoric, and discriminatory policies are not only standing up for their rights but for the rights of our communities. We should honor their bravery, and stand with them—for their sakes and for ours.
Eduardo Garcia is advocacy manager at Campus Progress. Follow him @itseddie.
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