OUR URGENCY OF NOW
I moved here with my family at age 14. After graduating from a reputable New England prep school, I gained acceptance to all but one of the schools I applied to (damn, Princeton!): another Ivy, a top uni, and 3 top 5 LACs. I don’t think I could’ve had a more perfect senior year spring term. I was meandering my way through music compostion, writing “cool” TI-83 programs to handle my differentiation problems for calc, reading boring history plays in Eng. Shakespeare, and having my thrice-weekly struggle with the reasoning behind taking molecular genetics spring of my senior year when sculpture would’ve been quite nice. I wasn’t worried about immigration.
To be honest, I didn’t have much of any sense about it. I knew I wasn’t a citizen- anything after that was far beyond my comprehension, and should there have been any problems, at age 18, I naturally deferred to my parents to solve. Afterall, my parents weren’t going to subject me to the constraints, suffrage, and perpetual misery that comes with “illegal immigration.”
.,.that was 10 years ago, and a
14-year visa overstay, and opportunities missed for me as a minor.
After waiting several years later to start, my preferred school discovered my scarlett letter, and even with scholarship -which was later rescinded- I was promptly relegated me to a “leave of absence” for my sophomore year even with a 3.8gpa. Mind you this wasn’t very long after 9-11, so as irrational as they were, some of their hesitation was understood: America at that time didn’t want a whiff of my kind- whatever that was. It’s amazing how much you discover about people when they learn your status. I knew I wasn’t to return when I realized the counselor assigned to help me knew nothing about immigration law outside of helping F1s get I-20s. I learned to be super insular and secretive; to become excellent at producing lies and excuses for turning down overseas trips- both pleasure and academic; to refrain from “coming out” to most people- I only managed a painful and emotional confession to a girl I was certain I wanted to marry someday this past year.
Most of my friends have now already received terminal degrees. Life often feels like I’m a passenger forever stuck a station watching train after train pass by with clear view of you patiently waiting on the platform. I’m sure you can all empathize. It can be demoralizing realizing you don’t exist. The system affords you no way to escape your malaise, yet you meet people who procure legalization through such expedient and underserving means that it makes you wonder what earned citizenship really means. And when you make your fervent plea for the single chance to redeem your future, the nativists, xenophobes, and dobbsians swoop in like vultures ready to pick clean the rest of your carcass with their dismissive, racist and insulting language.
I’ve been following DREAM in all its variations since 2001- sometimes with glee; with hope. I’ve written more than my fair share of letters; participated in forums like yours especially with trailblazers like COSA; and even implored a few college administrators to press for legislative action.
I don’t know what next year holds for DREAM, or CIR. To be honest, I don’t much care for CIR; it’s too bloated and cumbersome a measure to pass in this economic environment. I also might sound mean, but I don’t care how someone who has never been to the US “earns” their way here because grandma filed for their parents 20 years ago. Nor do I care about those who come here through the lottery. There’s a natural resentment of those who take for granted the privilege you aren’t even afforded the opportunity to enjoy. But I also don’t blame them- the system is what it is: fractured and antiquated. My only hope this time is for a measured approach, and a sense of pragmatic realism in our resolve to get DREAM passed next congress. I can’t afford to be overly exuberant at the thought of an Obama administration and a democratically controlled legislature. Nor should you. Dems are notoriously chicken, and cower easily, and until Obama actually makes real on his promises (and I don’t mean lip-service), I’ll have more faith in change.
That is not to say I won’t work for DREAM’s passage, but I’ll be 30 in 2 years, and I first came across DREAM 7 years ago. I’d like us all to take this opportunity like it were our LAST CHANCE! I’d hate to see others wallow around 7 years waiting for real reform only to slowly lose faith in our version of democracy. DREAM is deserved and long over due. For some of us, this may be our last real chance (outside of marriage) for passage. So as you make your efforts to get its passage, consider that realist approach; that urgency of now, for this perfect storm of a democratically controlled legislature and executive may well be the only time we push DREAM into law.