DREAMers on Grounds creates booklet of stories about DACA recipients

The collection will be taken to Washington, D.C. March 2 to be distributed to members of Congress


DREAMers on Grounds held a rally to support DACA recipients in September, following President Donald Trump's decision to rescind the program. 

Charlotte McClintock | Cavalier Daily

DREAMers on Grounds is in the process of developing a collection of stories and testimonies of DREAMers at the University to share the experiences of DACA recipients with the local community. 

DREAMers on Grounds is an organization at the University that was granted CIO status March 2016 and aims to protect undocumented students at the University and inform the local community of the issues they face. 

Students from the organization will take the booklets to Washington, D.C. March 2 — three days before the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is scheduled to expire — and distribute them to members of Congress and lobbyists in the hopes of swaying their opinions in favor of preserving the DACA program. 

On Sept. 5, 2017 President Donald Trump announced that his administration was revoking the DACA program, giving Congress a six-month delay to propose alternative legislation. 

“Congress now has the opportunity to advance responsible immigration reform that puts American jobs and American security first,” Trump said in an official statement. “Before we ask what is fair to illegal immigrants, we must also ask what is fair to American families, students, taxpayers, and jobseekers.”

DACA  — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — was created on June 15, 2012 under the former President Barack Obama’s administration and was intended to prevent individuals who arrived in the United States as minors from being deported because of their status as undocumented immigrants.

Called “DREAMers” after the failed DREAM bill in 2001 designed to give undocumented immigrants a path to permanent legal status, these individuals have had to meet a variety of criteria to qualify for DACA status. For example, DACA recipients must be younger than 30 years old, arrived before their 16th birthday, be enrolled in either school or the military and not have a record of criminal activity. If qualified, recipients were granted work permits, certain rights and a renewable reprieve from deportation.

The idea of the booklet began with Saúl Sandoval Navarrete, a fourth-year College Student and member of DREAMers on Grounds. Almost immediately after Trump announced his plan to rescind the DACA program was rescinded in 2017, Navarrete had the idea to record and tell the stories of DREAMers in some way. 

“We have a greater reach in the community,” said Rawda Fawaz, a third-year College student and vice president of DREAMers on Grounds. “And so I reached out to people I know who’ve been supporting us and advocating with us, and asked them if anyone would be interested in sharing their stories.”

“We’ve had the incredible opportunity to meet these really great people who are hard-working people, some of whom are students, some are working full time, and just get to know who they are,” Fawaz added.

To be completed by the end of February, the booklet will be printed and distributed in Washington, D.C. March 2.  DREAMers on Grounds has obtained funding to print 100 copies of the booklets. 

“At this point we have 12 stories,” Navarrete said. “And in this week, we’re making a huge push, so minimum, as of right now, we wanna have a minimum of 20 stories.” 

According to Navarrete, the project is on track to surpass that number, with the booklet ideally containing as many stories as possible.

The goal of the project is to not only collect and publish the stories of DREAMers, both on Grounds and off, but to also make sure that the booklets end up in the hands of members of Congress.

“[This is] a way of essentially saying we are literally giving you the most intimate part of our lives, we are sharing our stories, we are sharing parts of ourselves with you to convince you to actually take a stand … and provide people with a stable path to citizenship,” Fawaz said. 

Fawaz said she hopes that the booklet will increase empathy for DREAMers and personalize the issue of DACA status as the subject is often detached from those who are personally affected by it. 

“People refer to what’s going on as like ‘the DACA issue’ or ‘the immigration issue’, kind of forgetting that there are 11 million lives happening behind it,” Fawaz said. “We just want people to remember that they’re playing with lives, that every time they refuse to pass a bill, every time that they call people illegal or call them criminals, they’re literally talking about students and employees and families and children.”

The expiration of DACA will destabilize the reported 800,000 people who currently benefit from the program. In light of this potential fallout, this booklet project aims to emphasize humanizing the DREAMers and making sure that their stories are told and heard.

“With the ending of the program … it’s that ‘othering’, and it’s that ‘you don’t belong here, you’re foreign, you’re an alien’ and it’s all this rhetoric that constantly is thrown upon dreamers,” Navarrete said. “Essentially, that this isn’t your place, this is not where [we] belong.” 

“But at the end of the day, it really is,” Navarrete added. “It is our community, and our place where we’ve grown to love, and it’s all that we know.”

The organization is currently considering putting the DREAMers booklet online once the March 2 distribution has been completed to allow the public to see and read the stories of these individuals.

“These stories are so important because we become less of that ‘other’ and we become bodies,” Navarrete said. “We become human. And I think through these stories, we can show that.” 

“It’s something that we’ve got to do,” Navarrete said. 

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