Bravery is a muddled concept amongst our generation today. Many think bravery is standing up for what one believes in, be it a social issue or their faith systems. Others may classify bravery as the acts of soldiers and service persons who lay their lives down for others in the face of immediate violent danger.
It is a broad term with many definitions. It is to be able to look danger in the eye and not back down, despite the unknown impending consequences.
The bravery we don’t talk about often is that of the DREAMers, students who are not legal citizens of the United States but were brought here long before they could truly choose whether or not they wanted to live in America.
These students are young adults who are standing up and publicly declaring their undocumented status in hopes to obtain “conditional permanent residency.” But this process is dangerous and often times risky.
These students put their family’s lives in the United States up for chance and any fault, no matter how small, would jeopardize their status and could lead to immediate deportation.
DREAM, which stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, was first proposed in 2001 by Senator Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch. The bill has come under fire and is brought up consistently in our nation’s capitol.
Questions over the definition of “good moral character”, a top requirement for residency qualification, and the involvement of the student’s family have been the center of debate. Opponents of the DREAM act argue that this is just a way for immigrant students to “continue to accept free handouts from the hands of legal tax paying American citizens.” Where as proponents of the legislation see this as a fair chance at opportunity for students who are looking to educate and better themselves with the first world education offered in the United States.
California has it’s own version of the DREAM act, AB 540, which determines eligibility requirements for students to attend post-secondary school in the state and the financial aid one can apply for in order to help them pay, just like the average American student would. These students work just as hard to pay for their tuition and living costs, there are no free hand outs given. In fact, because they are undocumented, these students are not eligible for federal student aid and are only eligible for state aid and grants.
DREAMers must check in with their GPA multiple times and they must complete a Bachelors program or greater in a six year period before their temporary citizenship is revoked. They must continually show improved progress and can never slack. If you know a DREAMer, you know they are some of the most driven people. These are the students you find spending their weeknights in the library and their weekends at their jobs. They stay out of trouble and are practically the image of model citizens….except for the fact that they’re not.
The DREAM act has come up again in the last few weeks with President Obama who made a presidential memorandum that streamlined the future for the visa and immigration system for the United States. While this is great and it shows progress and acknowledges the importance immigrants play in our American society, this decision is at risk to be overturned and challenged by an anti-immigration Republican congress and suddenly all this proposed progress could disappear and this would possibly leave DREAMers holding onto next to nothing.
These undocumented students would most likely be stripped of all their work and contributions. They’d probably be deported, being taken away from their schoolwork and jobs, sent to a country they only know from family stories and geography lessons. It’d be a strenuous process to try to apply for a student visa afterwards, just so they could come back to finish a degree they were working so hard for, and this would only perpetuate cycles of inequality and injustice.
Unfortunately there’s nothing that we as citizens can immediately do to affect this decision. We can continue to speak out and voice our support for DREAMers and support them in their public plight to continue their education though everyday they face the possibility of being ripped away from their house and sent away. But our voices are powerful when in unison. We must let our politicians and political representatives know that we will support our brother, our friend, our neighbor, no matter their citizenship status.
Yes, bravery is an act of heroes. Heroes stare danger in the face and put themselves at risk for extreme consequences. Soldiers are heroes. Firefighters are heroes. Activists are heroes. And DREAMers are heroes.