Encourage feeling of safety among undocumented students
Perhaps the day of the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was a silent day for those who have benefited from Barack Obama’s policy to work and study in the United States and avoid deportation. The silence is attributed to the fear and uncertainty, that old feeling that Dreamers experienced in a pre-DACA era — a time spent mostly in “the shadows,” a time that seems to prevail once again.
University President Ronald Liebowitz responded to the DACA termination with an email to the entire Brandeis community, claiming that the decision from the Trump administration “is very upsetting” and that it “undermines the academic endeavors of our own students and is contrary to our basic values.” Liebowitz also assured that Brandeis is consulting with other universities and immigration attorneys to make sure that Brandeis students stay safe in school.
Liebowitz responded not only to the entire Brandeis community but also to the Trump administration. In a letter addressed to the White House, he wrote that, at Brandeis, “we value our DACA students, who enrich our campus in many ways and are integral to our community.”
In the history of social movements, it is the people directly affected by the lack of change that need to say, “I am here” in order for the movement’s agenda to move forward. More storytelling needs to be involved. For the Dreamers, their story is the story of yearning to live the promised “American Dream” — to study, work and establish a life in the land where the impossible is possible.
Around the same time that the Trump administration announced plans to terminate DACA, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) spoke in front of Congress about three exceptional undocumented students from Massachusetts, including Elias Rosenfeld ’20. , on Sept. 6, she told Rosenfeld’s heartfelt story about being undocumented, speaking on his academic accomplishments and extolling his persona. Rosenfeld’s story was first publicly told by a reporter from CNN . His mother transferred to a company in Miami to keep her children safe from the violence occurring in Venezuela. She arrived on a visa that allows executives and managers from other countries to work in the U.S. and then to apply for a green card. Rosenfeld’s mother never got the chance to apply for a permanent residence because, when he was eleven, she died of cancer. Once his mother was gone, so was his protective status.
Despite the implications of being publicly open about one’s immigration status, Rosenfeld felt he needed to come out of the shadows and tell his story. He’s done it in many forms: writing , creating events related to immigration policy on campus, doing interviews and working with politicians — like Warren — to mention a few. He is the definition of an activist who desires to give the DREAM movement a positive face.
It is necessary to shape any movement with stories from everywhere. The more stories from insiders, the less abstract it is for outsiders. People often underestimate the power of storytellers, but they can touch others, even the least cognizant on the topic, by bringing understanding through universal human experience.
With the burden lying on the dysfunctional Congress with a six-month moratorium and with Congress having loads of work ahead of them, having failed to pass any major piece of legislation during the first six months of Trump’s presidency, the pressure is heavier. They will have to deal with tax reform, passing a spending plan, raising the debt limit, writing a defense bill and — with this latest update on DACA — passing the DREAM Act or comparable legislation.
The DREAM Act has been in queue for years already, occasionally passing the House but not the Senate, and other times passing the Senate but not the House, . If it passes, the DREAM Act could grant a pathway to citizenship for approximately 800,000 Dreamers and current DACA recipients, . Yet the way things are being run in Capitol Hill, there is no guarantee that a DREAM Act — a polarizing issue among Republicans in the past — will pass very soon.
But what does it take to convince Congressmen? Dreamers have shown that they are resilient, hard-working contributing members of American society. Is there a need to increase the storytelling? In the past, many of the dreamers have protected their identities, to avoid deportation or other repercussions, when speaking for their own cause. In fact, here at Brandeis, three years ago, there was a campaign by the club Brandeis Immigration Education Initiative that involved anonymous silhouettes that contained information about immigrants in the U.S. Those silhouettes were vandalized, with ugly remarks written on them, and some were even destroyed, . After the incident, no other cohesive intent was attempted.
As the Oct. 5 deadline for DACA recipients to renew their status approaches, it ushers the end of an era of false comfort. Rosenfeld’s actions demonstrate bravery and inspiration at a time when most people would decide to just hide. By being publicly open as an undocumented individual, Rosenfeld maintains transparency so that one day everyone can feel comfortable to come out of the shadows, tell their story and keep sculpting the face of the Dreamers movement.