For four years, all across the United States, they have come to law offices like ours. They have come with tidy stacks of records from their years in the United States – vaccination cards, dog-eared school grade cards, pay stubs from high school jobs, college awards. The older ones come by themselves or with their spouses. The younger ones come with anxious parents. All of them are expectant, nervous but hopeful.
These are the DREAMers, the young people eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), announced by President Obama in 2012. They are undocumented youth brought here by their parents, usually without a visa. They have grown up in our country without papers and without any certainty as to what the future may hold.
Since 2012, DACA has allowed qualified young immigrants to apply for and receive a temporary reprieve from deportation. Over the past four years, DACA has significantly changed almost one million lives, allowing DACA recipients to work legally, obtain a driver’s license, more easily attend university or enroll in other advanced educational programs, pursue careers, and otherwise live as integral members of their communities, just as their peers born here.
After 25 years of representing immigrants, my life was changed by DACA, too. Like many others, I was inspired and moved by the phenomenon of so many young lives being changed so dramatically by one program. I decided to try to tell the story of these young people in a way that I hope is compelling to American voters.
The MyAmericanDreams Film Project was started by a coalition of community leaders and local DREAMers in Sonoma County. Seed funding was obtained from the Sonoma County Human Rights Commission, and additional funding was received from private donations. Cal Humanities awarded a $10,000 matching grant, and our local PBS station (KRCB) agreed to partner with us. We produced the first short films to great acclaim.
We have now highlighted six DREAMers and shared how their lives have been transformed in powerful ways since receiving DACA. These films were produced by Rhian Miller, a professional filmmaker with 25 years of experience working with PBS. They have been shown continuously on our local PBS station, and are about to be released to PBS stations across the country. They are also shown on social media and in public fora.
The primary goal of the Project is to change the hearts and minds of Americans about undocumented immigrants, the need for President Obama’s expanded DACA and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) initiatives, and for immigration reform generally.
The MyAmericanDreams project would greatly appreciate your help in distributing the videos, through your chapter, within your greater community and ideally, by reaching out to your local PBS station to request that they broadcast the videos. Additionally, if there are members of your community interested in making similar videos highlighting DREAMers’ stories, we can provide support and help.
This is an incredibly important time to reach the hearts and minds of the American people regarding DACA, DAPA, and the need for immigration reform. Together we can achieve change.
Written by Christopher A. Kerosky, AILA Member and Project Director, My American Dreams