To My Former Dreamer Students: I Lied To You

Please forgive that we let it get to this point, that we didn’t stop the chaos of oppression before it sparked a fire.

To My Former Dreamer Students,

I am truly sorry. I lied to you.

Do you remember the first week of our U.S. History class during the fall of 2015? We discussed America’s first national motto, e pluribus unum. As I explained the meaning ― out of many, one ― we agreed that a wonderful attribute of America is the many immigrants with diverse cultures that make up this nation.

You shared with me your own stories of crossing the southern border and coming to the U.S. with your family in search of a better life. You shared your experiences of the violence your family fled, the horrible things you saw as a child that would rival ISIS in its level of atrociousness. You explained how your mom couldn’t come to parent-teacher meetings because she works three jobs to support you and your siblings, and on top of school, you also work two jobs on the side to help out. When I spoke with her on the phone, she told me that her only desire is for you and your siblings to make a better life for yourselves. I hope you know she is truly proud of you, as am I.

You confided in me, you trusted me, and when I told you that you are the reason America is great, there is every ounce of truth in that. You are assets, and we need you.

As the school year progressed, the election season intensified, with campaign promises of mass deportation and a border wall between Mexico. Naturally, you voiced your concern for your family. With every bit of assurance, I told you the chances of this candidate being elected and carrying out these policies was almost non-existent.

I remember when we talked about the Chinese Exclusion Act. I could see a hint of fear in your eyes. You asked, “Is this what Trump wants to do to Mexicans?” And I told you with every bit of confidence, regardless of the real problem of racism in our country, a government policy so blatantly prejudiced would not happen today.

Further in the year, we discussed Executive Order 9066. You asked, “Could something like this happen to Mexicans?” I assured you this executive order was went against the Constitution. I couldn’t imagine a replay of this sort of clear-broad intolerance coming from the executive branch. The people wouldn’t have it, right?

Through the year we talked about emancipation, the progressive era, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement and countless fights for equality all throughout this nation’s history. We discussed historical voices, movements of resistance against oppression and how important it is we practice our rights and vocally stand against intolerance.

By the end of our school year, the voices calling for a wall and deportation were growing stronger, and you expressed your escalating concern that we were watching a real threat to your family unfold, a repeat of some of the modernly unimaginable measures we spoke of in class. Maybe I was in a state of denial. I could not fathom the reality that was coming to fruition, and I continued to reassure you that you and your family would be safe.

But I was wrong. I lied to you.

As we watched the election unfold and this administration began to cash in on its promises directly aimed at hurting you and your family, policies I assured you couldn’t happen, my heart broke. I was dead wrong. I dismissed your concerns with my comforting words that, when is all said and done, were lies. I am deeply sorry.

You see, I taught you, through history, the vitality of resisting oppression, yet I stood in denial for far too long thinking this could never happen ― not here, not today. Until it did, and it is. We failed you. I failed you.

I want you to know the fight isn’t over. I want you to know there is a strong voice of growing resistance, one that will go down in history with the other great justice seekers we spoke of in class. Please forgive that we let it get to this point, that we didn’t stop the chaos of oppression before it sparked a fire. Please know that we will never stop fighting for and with you. When I told you this country is great because of you, that was absolute truth. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise and never stop being the change that our nation needs to see.

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