DREAMers Develop a Community for Change

By schwartzsa | April 5, 2013

Immigration reform: Who does it really affect? More than 360,000 undocumented immigrants who have grown up in the United States live in constant fear of deportation. We may be familiar with the statistics, but the stories and faces behind the numbers are largely unknown.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act—commonly known as the DREAM Act—would provide undocumented students the legal means to work and study in the U.S. When it failed to pass the House of Representatives in December 2012, many young undocumented immigrants chose to emerge from a shadow of fear and shame to rally support for the legislation. They call themselves DREAMers.

Two such DREAMers—Erika Nunez, a DREAM activist from Mexico, and Mayra Hidalgo, a United We DREAM collaborator—sat down with Dr. Hilary P. Dick, Assistant Professor of International Studies, and Dr. Smita Mathur, Assistant Professor of Education, to discuss coming out as DREAMers and what the movement means to them.

“I feel like change always starts in the hearts and minds of people,” said Nunez. Indeed, the voices of people like Nunez and Hidalgo have propelled the DREAM movement recently, leading to the reintroduction of the legislation in the House of Representatives in February 2013.

As the debate continues, it is becoming more apparent that the DREAM Act is more than just an immigration issue. It’s related to education, social justice, equity and fairness, politics, criminal justice, international relations, moral imperatives and economic considerations. And changing law requires more than changing minds. It requires irrefutable evidence.

Focusing on the criminalization of Mexican migrants and racializing discourses of sovereignty in anti-immigrant ordinances in small Pennsylvania towns, Dick hopes to foster understanding and promote change by facilitating and adding to the scholarly dialog.

“There’s a lot of little clips in the media, but if you look at journal articles that are peer-reviewed  that get academic respect, there’s very little out there,” said Mathur. “First of all, finding a sample is hard, then actually finishing that research with some kind of funding is hard. Then to get a journal to publish it is such a difficult thing—but we are doing it. We need more people—like [Dick] to get the word out in an academic avenue.”