Dreamers are what they know themselves to be: American
I love my clients and I love the work that I do—but nothing compares to the deep, undying love I have for my sons and wife. When I come home from a long day at work – tired, zombie-like, and my mind still reeling from that day’s public affairs and advocacy pursuits – the only thing that clears my head is seeing my family again. To Grayson and Declan, 5 and 3, respectively, I am their provider, their protector, their rock, their daddy. Already, our small family resembles the melting pot that America so prides itself as: me, the son of a Mexican immigrant and second-generation San Antonian, my third-generation Irish-descended wife from New York, and our sons with names that reflect their diverse heritage.
I learned to love the country of my birth by observing my immigrant father—my provider, my protector, my rock. He emigrated to Texas at age 6, enlisted in the military to fight in Vietnam, worked for the federal government as bank examiner and then as a banker, and he continues to give back to his San Antonio community today. My father’s unwavering patriotism and undying love for America—a country worth fighting for on dangerous missions abroad, a land of economic opportunities that elevated the trajectory of his life—and his sons, by default, paved the way for me to become who I am today.
It was – and is – the American Dream.
Propelled by the series of advantages and opportunities afforded to me as a native-born American, I embarked on my own call-to-action for my country. I served under President George W. Bush, under two Secretaries of the Treasury, and as a Senior Policy Advisor to Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) to implement big policy initiatives on both domestic and international policy.
And my family’s “American Dream” being actualized is a repeated trope felt and accomplished by a significant portion of inhabitants in this country—people whose relatives, or they themselves on their own volition, left for the United States in search of a better, safer, more fulfilling life for them and their descendants. The DREAM Act passed in the House in Summer 2019 – the first vote of its kind since 2010 – grants young, undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, including those protected from deportation under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an opportunity to acquire permanent lawful status if they meet specific requirements. In order to follow the pathway to citizenship under the bill, these young immigrants must earn a college degree or complete two years of a degree program at an institution for higher education or technical school. They could also qualify if they served honorably in the military or have been employed in the U.S. for more than three years. The 2019 DREAM Act would also grant this group of young undocumented immigrant access to federal financial aid for college.
There are over 800,000 young men and women who would benefit from the DREAM Act but you wouldn’t be able to tell one of these young people from either of my real “American” sons. These “DREAMERS” live in our neighborhoods, enroll at our schools, play on our sports teams, fight for our country, and contribute to our workplaces and overall economy. They are indistinguishable from their first-generation and fifteenth-generation American peers and friends because these Dreamers are what they know themselves to be: American.
America would both economically and socially suffer if our population of Dreamers are deported. Researchers at the Center for Migration Studies of New York found that the two million or so young people who could be covered by a Dream Act have integrated successfully into our society. Sixty-five percent work, with over 70,000 self-employed. Eighty-eight percent speak English exclusively or totally proficiently. Nearly 30 percent have attended college or earned their college degree. They have lived in the United States an average of 14 years and are parents to 392,000 American citizen children. The American public already agrees with this. Eighty-seven percent support passage of a Dream Act to let young immigrants stay here.
In the last few years, I’ve made an astute observation—simultaneously, there has been an uptick in anti-immigration sentiment in Washington, D.C. while we have observed a clear STEM-skills gap in our American-born workforce. Why would we not welcome the opportunity to include more talented, hardworking, focused individuals looking to better themselves and grow our nation’s economy? We are presented with a series of mounting challenges and transformations that are changing every facet of American society: the environment, STEM-skills and technological advancements, global terror organizations, polarized politics, and more. The DREAM Act is our solution, our duty, and our saving grace in making our neighborhoods, cities, states, nation, and world a better place to live.