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DREAMers: Unused and Unmatched Ambition - Watch out for Act Two

I personally have never seen such a piece of legislation like the DREAM Act discussed by so many Latino families I know, including my own, so I think it is safe to say this was happening across the country.  The bill had the overwhelming support of Latinos throughout the nation and a majority, though slim, of most other Americans.  The DREAM Act saw different organizations; congregations, some Republican Senators, Somos Republicans and many more support its passage.  Most importantly the vote held many, many young Hispanics, the fastest growing segment of the U.S population, enraptured - watching and hearing friends, families and siblings cry as the vote went against the measure.

So as the Senator’s spoke against the bill, like Sen. Jeff Sessions, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Mitch McConnell, you were also watching them at the twilight of their power and know the likes of them let alone a majority will not be in power in future legislative sessions.  Not one of the Republican Senator’s who spoke against the measure could muster any kind words about the students themselves, regardless of how they would vote later.  The insult was audible almost as loud as the NAY vote itself.  Be prepared to hear the Hispanic legislative class of 2018 and many to come after that, when there will be more Latinos in Congress, say they were moved to political life by this vote.

Many Hispanics that have no skin in the game supported this bill for profoundly personal and emotional reasons that defy logic to others, except that we simply recognize these students as one of our own and claim them as such, even when certain sectors of the U.S. refused to do so.  I, like so many other native born Hispanics, were touched and overwhelmed by the number of undocumented students who came out of the shadows at a great risk to advocate for their dream.  We will be forever moved by students on their knees outside the Senate floor praying and crying, by watching the Texas hunger strikers plead for respect, and if these students never get the right to vote, we will vote on their behalf for the DREAM that wasn’t.  Hispanic Americans do not hold these children accountable for the crimes, crimes of desperation, of their parents, which typically is the case in most civilized nations yet this nation did so with this vote.

As they came out of the shadows with nowhere to hide they quickly realized this was a time when an American Dream wasn’t enough, that the political winds were against them and the nation of big shoulders was too weary to help them out or even say welcome.  Yet these self-made survivors preserved.

They came to see that a cause they saw as essential and others as noble were viewed by some only in terms of ‘illegality’ and as a ‘risk to national security’.  Yet they preserved this group holding unused and unmatched ambition. 

Will their Act Two return them to the shadows? I think not, though now in year ten of their struggle they are energized and very organized.  Because along the way they were lauded, applauded and supported by unlikely constituencies to make them hope and see this as a Dream deferred. 

And before hope could fully fade from them and tears dry, there was the vote to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, a victory seventeen years in the making and at that moment the DREAMers could dream again because as Senator Joe Lieberman so aptly said: “When a barrier falls for one group of American’s the door opens to another group.”