What Happens To A Dream[er] Deferred?

“What happens to a dream deferred?” - Langston Hughes

We are dismayed by the the proposed termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a program which we know impacts many Big Picture Learning students, alumni, educators, mentors, and their families.

We -- Carlos and Andrew -- are personally affected on a number of levels. Our own children attend schools where they sit side-by-side with students from affected families. And each of our own families came to the United States from parts of the world with troubled histories of oppression. Some of our ancestors found refuge on these shores; some of our family members never made it out alive.

Over the course of our 15+ years as educators and leaders at Big Picture Learning, we’ve worked with countless students and families who were recent immigrants. Families who, like ours, had complicated immigration stories and hoped that the United States would provide an oasis from indescribable torment in their countries of origin - political oppression, violence, famine, crushing poverty and persecution based on race, ethnicity, and religion. We know that in the hurried process of their flight, many families did not feel that they had the luxury of time to adhere to the bureaucratic processes required to secure legal passage, but nonetheless they came – in many cases to save their children’s lives.

As educators, administrators, and system-level leaders we’ve worked closely with these aptly named “Dreamers.” In recent days we’ve heard less about their hopes and dreams, and more about their anxiety and desperation.

Consider Nely (identity protected):

A young person we know who was brought to the US before the age of 10. Although she was a talented and diligent student, Nely intentionally took five years to graduate from her Big Picture Learning high school because she was well aware that staying in high school for an extra year was one of the only ways to continue her education. As she neared graduation in 2007, there were almost no post-secondary education nor legal employment options for undocumented people. In more recent years, thanks to DACA, Nely was finally able to complete a program that prepared her for a career in the medical field. Since then, Nely has literally been helping to improve the health of United States citizens and has been faithfully paying taxes while doing so.

However, the text messages that we have received over the past few days from Nely have been gut-wrenching and heart-breaking: “I’m working in the hospital… I love my job and I’m just very afraid… I feel awful – helpless.” We are heartened that other alumni and families from Nely’s school have reached out with offers of support, but this may not be enough. Nely is married to a US Citizen and has children of her own born here in the US. Nonetheless, she may be subject to forced deportation and separation from her husband and children..

Big Picture Learning school communities are made up of families that originate from diverse geographies around the planet earth. Originally divided by language and culture, our students and families forge relationships in communities that extend beyond the walls of the schools. It is not just our students, alumni, and families, but school staff and mentors who are affected. We cannot ignore this. This is an issue that truly impacts us all.

At Big Picture Learning we stand for the belief that it is important to create opportunities for all people to freely pursue their passions and interests. We believe that no individual should be discriminated against based on decisions made by their parents when they were young children. Immigration issues are complex and divisive, but we resolutely share a knowledge that all human beings, regardless of citizenship, are strongly united by a simple common desire to provide better lives for our children.

Until such time as that legislation is passed, we join in solidarity with the gathering chorus of organizations, institutions, businesses, local and state governments who have pledged to support our students, alumni, families and communities who are being severely adversely affected by the potential end of DACA. We call upon the US Congress to urgently act to pass legislation that creates resolution for Nely and the countless others whose dreams are in danger of not just being deferred but potentially obliterated.

Co-Executive Directors, Big Picture Learning