Intro: the following was a piece I wrote for and was originally published on Cuéntame’s blog. My central aim was to try to give our community a much needed pep talk to not be afraid of getting excited about the DREAM Act. I also tried to frame the issue as core to U.S. values, by evoking one of the cornerstones of our political folklore: Ted Kennedy. Finally, I attempted to make the point that the DREAM Act is a continuation of the May Day marches, to drive the point home that every little bit that has been done on immigration reform HAS counted and will CONTINUE to count towards our goal of comprehensive immigration reform.
“The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.”
-Ted Kennedy at the 2008 Democratic National Convention
Such are the voices from our past that remind us that the struggle for immigration reform is nothing new. Lest we forget, the cause of Ted Kennedy’s life was not only health care reform but also immigration reform. In fact, for many decades, he was our champion on this issue, and when he passed away he was deeply mourned by many of us immigration reform activists. By all measures, the Senate vote that would have taken place on the DREAM Act as a first step towards comprehensive immigration reform would have been historic. However, a few Senators decided to block making history. They decided to get in the way of the realization of our DREAM. We cannot let this deter us. They may have won this battle, but mark my words, we will win the war on taking the necessary steps to solve the rampant humanitarian crisis that this country has to deal with every single day as a result of our broken immigration system. No, we cannot let up; we must continue to dream against all odds.
For far too long, our community has been afraid of dreaming, just like Andres Useche immortalized in the song he popularized during the 2008 election season. The disappointments have been many, and the political process can make anyone bitter and cynical. Although fear can have a motivational effect, it can also be paralyzing and blinding to such a degree that it can turn you into your own worst enemy. There’s nothing wrong with being afraid or being cautious; but like Ted Kennedy’s quote above suggests, we have to be careful not to let fear paralyze our dreams. We have to realize, that sometimes, the improbable can be made probable, and the unrealistic can be made into a reality. Notice the emphasis on the “we” because nothing will be given to us; we have to take it. Yes, examples of times when we as a community have been let down by the political process are many, but the courage that our community has shown more than makes up for all of the political hypocrisy combined.
I am reminded of those first massive immigration marches that have now become a tradition for every May 1st in many major cities of the United States. They became massively huge as a response to the authoritarian HR 4437 bill that sought to turn undocumented immigrants into felons. In fact, HR 4437 represented a full-on war on Christianity itself, as it sought to force religious groups to betray their spiritual calling of caring for the stranger by charging these faith-based groups with felonies should they help undocumented people in any shape or form. The courage that the marchers have shown has been unbelievably inspiring and they have been equally matched by the incredible bravery and strength that youth DREAM’er activists have shown as well.
It is time that we all follow their examples: if they can do what is necessary to move our dream of immigration reform forward, then so can we all. It’s time to leave our limitations behind. It’s time to stop thinking of “how hard it will be” and start thinking about the possibilities. Like Ted Kennedy said at the DNC ’08:
“When John Kennedy thought of going to the moon, he didn’t think ‘it’s too far’ to get there, we shouldn’t even try; our people answered his call and rose to the challenge, and today an American flag still marks the surface of the moon….”
Maybe it’s time for us to stop thinking about “how hard it will be” and start thinking about how positive it will be and about how we will not accept delays, inaction, nor will we tolerate that which only gets in our way of realizing our dreams because, echoing also the words of Ted Kennedy a the DNC 1980: “the dream shall never die.”