While the phrase “DREAMer” has been thrown around a lot here lately, in my experience, a lot of people don’t know what terms like this actually mean — especially conservatives.
The other day I messaged five different conservative friends of mine to ask them if they could explain to me what a DREAMer was. Unsurprisingly, only one actually knew and even her understanding of what constituted a “DREAMer” wasn’t entirely accurate.
As for the other four, they had no idea. In their minds, DREAMers were “just illegal immigrants looking for welfare,” or something along those lines.
Their answers weren’t all that surprising considering most of the comments I see from conservatives tell me that the majority of them don’t actually know what it means to be a DREAMer.
While it’s true that, technically, anyone who qualifies under the rules of DACA as a “DREAMer” is an illegal immigrant, being a DREAMer is much different than the stereotypical person living in the United States illegally.
Here are the official requirements to qualify as a DREAMer under Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (aka DACA):
- Under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012.
- Came to the U.S. while under the age of 16.
- Have continuously resided in the U.S. from June 15, 2007 to the present. (For purposes of calculating this five year period, brief and innocent absences from the United States for humanitarian reasons will not be included).
- Entered the U.S. without inspection or fell out of lawful visa status before June 15, 2012.
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making the request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS.
- Currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or armed forces.
- Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor, or more than three misdemeanors of any kind; and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
In other words, it’s not exactly easy to qualify as a DREAMer. An individual must meet a strict set of guidelines, including an education background and fairly clean criminal record.
Though the biggest thing to know about DREAMers is that these are people who were brought here, often when they were very young children, by parents or other adults. They didn’t make the decision to break our laws — that decision was made for them.
In many instances, DREAMers don’t know any other home but the United States. Sure, while they might have been born in Mexico or some other country, that doesn’t mean they know anything about the country to which most conservatives want to “send them back.”
For a moment, imagine being a child who was brought to the United States at just 2-years-old, but was never told that they weren’t born here. For their entire lives they’ve considered themselves an American citizen. They grew up in the United States, went to school here, got an education here, all their friends are here. The only language they even speak fluently is English.
Then imagine one day when they’re 22 being told that they were getting deported to a country they knew nothing about because, two decades earlier, their parents brought them here illegally. They didn’t make the choice to break our immigration laws, their parents did hoping to give them a better life. Hell, until they were being deported, they weren’t even aware that they weren’t really an American citizen. Yet despite being an upstanding member of this country for years — in some instances even veterans of our military — they now face exile to a land about which they know nothing, where they know nobody.
Just think about how frightening that would be.
These were people brought here when they were children who, for many, know no other home than the United States of America.
You have to be a cruel, cold-hearted bastard to want to kick DREAMers out of this country. There’s nothing humane, decent, or even American about wanting to rip apart families and remove people from the only country most of them have ever known because, as a child, an adult decided they were going to risk their lives to bring them here hoping to give them a better life.
Unfortunately, most conservatives don’t even understand what a DREAMer is other than a “brown person they don’t want here.” Meanwhile, the other sad truth is, some do know what DREAMers are — yet they simply don’t care.
There’s nothing American, Christian, or even decent about playing politics with the lives of innocent people simply because they can. Protecting DREAMers isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the American thing to do.