Here at The Laura Flanders Show we have a comprehensive John Jay Justice Fellowship program where participants work hands-on gaining first hand knowledge about our independent movement media operation producing our TV, radio and podcast productions. Throughout the program our entire staff spends time with each fellow sharing their expertise and knowledge from editing to scripting to promotions and technical skills, and more. We mentor our fellows and guide them in producing their own media pieces. You are about to read one of those stories produced by John Jay Justice fellow Mame Niang, a college senior majoring in criminal justice.
Report: Life As A DREAMer in the United States
Children in the United States who came here when they were young were granted the opportunity to receive a pathway to citizenship. It was an executive order signed by former president Barack Obama which he called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as DACA. The presidential executive action protects nearly 800,000 young people, or “DREAMers.” The applicant must have entered the U.S. before the age of 16 and must have lived there for at least 5 years. They must demonstrate that they have a high school diploma or GED from the United States. The application provides employment authorization that will permit you to work in the U.S. You cannot travel unless you apply for travel documents with the U.S. government and pay fees. During Donald Trump’s presidency, he created laws that made it harder for people to apply to DACA.
Students faced numerous challenges with DACA during Trump’s presidency, when he gave the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, a green light and made remarks like “happy hunting” to federal law enforcement targeting immigrants. I spoke with two DREAMers enrolled in New York City’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and heard about their experiences as undocumented students, the college application process and the threat of ICE.
Maimouna is a Senegalese girl who immigrated to the United States with her family in 2004, when she was four years old. She feels most at ease in the U.S., and is unsure how she would feel in her native Senegal. “I haven’t been home since I was four and I don’t know much about my home country, unfortunately,” she says. Maimouna has faced numerous challenges while living without citizenship in the U.S. As a child, her parents told her there were things she couldn’t do because she was an immigrant. “I can’t hop the trains, can’t go to certain parties, because I have more to lose.”
“I consider the United States to be my home because I grew up here, rather than in Senegal.” Being undocumented in the U.S with no path to citizenship is a vexing experiences for many DREAMers at John Jay College. They call America home, fight for a path to citizenship and were terrified when the Trump administration proposed laws that would violate their rights. Republicans are still making life difficult for DREAMers and undocumented people.
Chelsea is a DREAMer from Ghana and she moved to the U.S at six years old. She is heavily involved in the John Jay Immigrant Success Center, and says there is one person in the center whom she can confide in. “I’m not comfortable sharing with other John Jay staff unless it’s Denise,” she explained. Denise works at the Immigrant Student Success and offers resources, fellowships and guidance for DREAMers.
Chelsea says she is frustrated by Capitol Hill and their decisions on DACA. “When it comes to immigration, it’s as if the assistance we need and us getting citizenship are just being thrown around,” she shares. “There’s no respect and acknowledgment of all the hard work and struggles many undocumented students and their families go through,” she says.
“I have gained support, but only if I look for it . . . I believe that schools should do more to help undocumented students.”
During the Obama presidency, he issued an executive order directing federal agencies to create a pathway for children under the age of six to enter the country, and he did so in collaboration with President Joe Biden, who then issued an executive order in January 2021 directing federal agencies to “preserve and strengthen DACA.” However, in July 2021, a federal judge in Texas ruled that DACA is unconstitutional. President Biden called the decision “deeply disappointing” and said it “relegates hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to an uncertain future.” He stated that the Department of Justice will appeal the decision and urged Congress to ensure that DREAMers have a path to citizenship.
Many DREAMers are unfamiliar with their home country — the U.S. has become their home. DREAMers must have the same rights as children born in the U.S. The Biden administration must take significant action to support them. I strongly encourage government officials to put themselves in a DREAMers shoes, and imagine what it would be like.
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