DREAMing can continue to make America great

Last week, federal immigration officers went to the home of 2009 ASU graduate Erika Andiola. The officers arrested and took Andiola’s mother and brother from the family’s home in Phoenix.

Andiola helped to found the Arizona Dream Act Coalitiona group of young immigrants who advocate giving legal status to people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Andiola entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico but has work authorization for two years by way of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a deportation relief offered by President Barack Obama to immigrants eligible for the Dream Act.

Immediately following her mother and brother’s arrest, Andiola took to social media.

Fortunately, she has access to an incredible network of Dreamers, activists and community organizers.

Andiola then penned a letter to this community and almost immediately had community leaders and elected officials from Arizona, Florida, New York and Washington, D.C. activate a national network of a politically powerful Latino community.

The following morning, her brother was released from detention. Three hours later, the bus taking her mother to the border had turned around. Her mother was headed back home.

Andiola noted that because Arizona has been at the center of the immigration debate, it is imperative that state leadership be guided by what Andiola calls “the real stories of Arizona: the stories of a new generation of Americans and our struggle.”

On Aug. 28, 1963, another Dreamer delivered an address during his March on Washington.

He spoke for those still languishing in the corners of American society and those who find themselves “an exile in their own land.”

He spoke of being guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. proudly stated, “To those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, ‘When will you be satisfied?’ We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.”

King said that his dream was “deeply rooted in the American Dream” and would shine in spite of the frustrations that inevitably come in a time of championing for civil rights.

This week, people of all creeds, nations and colors will remember his legacy and what it meant to all those who continue to fight for equality and human dignity.

King’s dream, passion and legacy was to reach out to all who are suffering. It wasn’t about comparing disparities, but about banding together to find solutions.

Now is an important time to live out the message that all men are created equal — not just for African-Americans or for those whom our nation marks as “illegal,” but for every person who comes to this country in pursuit of the American Dream.

Immigration is about human dignity, about people and parents of different nations risking everything for the promise and opportunity of life in a different land.

In the 1960s, many people deemed the efforts of King unnecessary.

These people acted out of a fear of a different America they could not and did not want to imagine and tried to hold the country static.

If King were alive today, he would warn against those who have continued to center their politics around fear and hate.

The same fear that fueled the hateful movement for segregation is the same fear that drives the push against immigration reform and activism. We have to fight the idea that immigrants are some kind of menace to society and start championing for the rights of those who are indeed the very pillars of America.

We as a nation now find ourselves at another forefront of a time of great potential.

The Andiola family, as well as so many countless others, could still be separated.

When Obama stopped the deportation of youth who would qualify under the Dream Act, it was a result of pressure from active immigrant youth movements. Because most immigrants don’t have the same access to such an extensive network, we all must continue to band together and remain an active force of change for all who share the American Dream.

As Andiola stated beautifully in her letter, “The entire country is ready to make America great.”

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let us all celebrate the heroism of every person’s dream, from undocumented parents and children to all those who have fought and led the way for civil rights.

Let us dream out loud through action so that every day, we as a nation grow one step closer to letting freedom ring with the fierce urgency of now.

 

Reach the columnist at andrea.c.flores@asu.edu or follow her at @BOWCHICKAFLORES

 

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