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A Dream Deferred

Bee walks into the library decked out in her sorority letters and the occasional venti Starbucks. For hours she fights off sleep, Instagram, and the occasional fraternity brother who “lost his notes.”

Like millions of Americans who are currently enrolled in college, this is a weekly, if not a daily, occurrence. Before bed, Bee wonders what she’ll wear tomorrow and does the math to see how early she can wake up to get her homework done. And while she shares the same worries about the future as her classmates, she keeps a secret. She wonders whether she’ll be allowed to work in her field, whether she’ll be able to pay her tuition without access to financial aid, or if she’ll come home and find that her parents have been forcibly removed by ICE. Unlike her classmates, Bee is a Dreamer…and in this uncertain political environment, dreaming is all she can afford to do.

Amid the partisan bickering in Washington over President Trump’s border wall, millions of undocumented immigrants who qualified for protection under the DREAM Act wait impatiently on the sidelines. Unable to move freely or participate equally in the American dream, the debate over the children who arrived in the United States is a fundamental question of what it means to be a citizen and an American.

The belief in a truly civic form of citizenship has been the driving force in America’s success here and around the world. The American people’s unwavering belief in the God-given rights of man works to continue remedying the broken promises of our founding. It has been the impetus to lift millions out of poverty and the drive to create a rule based on international order that protects democracy and civil rights. Yet, too often those who have carried the flag in defense of its values abroad have not stood with those people at home yearning to breathe free. It is precisely those huddled masses, armed with nothing but the drive to succeed, that are the biggest ambassadors for the American dream.

The DREAM Act, signed by President Obama, created an avenue for America to fulfill its promise to students, professionals, and children. As part of the program, those children were required to disclose their information in return for legal status. Their voluntary surrender of privacy is nothing less than a ratification of our Constitution. It is the proactive embodiment of what every “naturally born” American has never had to do. The failure to acknowledge this form of patriotism and loyalty is a betrayal to the premise of our social contract.

This is what makes Dreamers unique. Their wholesome belief in the American experiment, the secession of their natural liberty, and their trust in America’s promise form the bedrock of citizenship. The betrayal of this trust is not only a failure in the strength of our institutions but also in our ability to uphold our founding principles.

In abandoning Bee and the millions of Dreamers like her, we ignore the history of millions of people in search of a better life in America. We must not let their dream dry up like a raisin in the sun. If we do, it is our values that will surely explode.