First-Generation Immigrants Like Mari Are Called DREAMers for a Reason

Aug 31, 2017 12:00:00 AM

by Kelisa Wing

Marisol, Mari for short, is a true dreamer. One of my best friends, Mari, is a first-generation immigrant to the United States from Mexico. Her parents brought her as a baby, undocumented, but they worked feverishly over the years and eventually gained citizenship for the whole family. Mari told me about the racism she experienced while growing up in the United States. “Why can’t they speak American?” people would say about them. When Mari hears comments like this now directed toward others, she is not afraid to speak up. “Soy Hispano y orgulloso de ello,” Mari told a friend who had complained to her about people in a nearby restaurant who were speaking Spanish. I am Hispanic and proud of it. Lately, I have been thinking about all of the people, like Mari, who came to this country in search of a dream. Their parents had made choices about where they would live based on what was best for the family, but the children had no real say in the matter. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, established by President Obama, protects people like Mari from deportation. However, many in the Trump administration have a different dream. Officials like Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton want immigrants like Mari to leave. Paxton is calling for DACA to be abolished as early as next Tuesday. I fear that President Trump’s recent pardoning of Sheriff Joe Arpaio portends real trouble for Latino students who are undocumented. Arpaio was found guilty of crimes against Latinos, including racial profiling and civil rights violations. I pray that this pardon is not a signal from his administration that DACA is next on the chopping block of Obama policies to kill. In light of the incredible damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, I hope that the Texas attorney general will feel compassion for those students who benefit from DACA in his community and beyond. [pullquote position="right"]For many people under DACA, America is the only home they have ever known.[/pullquote] It is inhumane to force them "back" to somewhere many cannot remember ever having been. As an educator, it is my duty to educate the public and lawmakers on matters that impact my students. I must work to ensure that they are all able to dream and that they have access to an equitable education that can make these dreams come true. One way I nurture equity as a language arts educator is through the books I choose to present to my students. A great resource to ensure that this happens in all classrooms is a new social justice book list, created by National Network of State Teachers of the Year. Right now I like a particularly compelling book on the list that is about the topic of immigration. “The Book of Isaias” by Daniel Connolly tells the story of a student whose parents are undocumented. As a Black woman, I oftentimes find myself troubled that when we talk about race, it seems to stop with Black and White issues. Our nation’s racial divides extend far beyond those false binaries, and we need to include all races in our conversations about equity and social justice. We have to talk about our Latino brothers and sisters, and we have to talk about DACA, a program that has benefitted more than 800,000 of our neighbors. The dreamers really are our citizens; they are workers who have joined us to better their lives and our make this country better. Mari, the dreamer, is now a lawyer fighting for clients seeking asylum. Godspeed, my friend. The teachers are with you.

Kelisa Wing

Kelisa Wing is the author of "Weeds & Seeds: How To Stay Positive in the Midst of Life’s Storms" and "Promises and Possibilities: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline" (both available on Amazon). She also is a 2017 State Teacher of the year, speaker, teacher and activist for discipline reform. Kelisa holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Maryland University College, a master of arts in secondary education and an educational specialist degree with a concentration in curriculum, instruction and educational leadership from the University of Phoenix. She is currently enrolled at Walden University in the doctor of education program. All views expressed are her own and do not reflect the views of any others.

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