For generations, New York City has been the promise land for those dreamers looking for a new home and a better future for themselves and their families. But does it feel like that for everyone, though? Sometimes difficulties may arise; difficulties that may feel hard or even impossible to overcome, especially when an individual feels unrepresented or threatened by their government.
Through the lives of young Latinos in NYC, the “I am A Dreamer” documentary series aims to capture everyday struggles, fears, hopes, and dreams, and share the stories in order to give a voice and a platform for all Latinos to express themselves.
The series was the “birth child” of Mario Rosales a filmmaker and journalist of Guatemalan heritage, who came to the US in 2004. After finishing his Master’s degree in Filmmaking at City College, Mr. Rosales now works for CUNYTV. The idea came to him when he heard “the way President Trump spoke about Latinos. “During his political campaign, he was talking about how Mexicans are rapists and this struck a chord in me and I couldn’t stop thinking about the repercussion of his words. I felt that I needed to do something and not just be a spectator of the times.”
The first episode of “I am A Dreamer” launched in March 2018, following the decision of the United States Department of Homeland Security to rescind the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program, while continuing to review the existence of it as a whole. Mario Rosales met Ashley González, a native Mexican activist, an agronomist, who crossed the border with his mother and brother at the age of 7 and has since been protected since under the DACA program, at a pro-DACA rally. He is one of the main characters of the series, and his work for the Latino community is a main feature of the Documentary.
A few words about DACA; DACA is an immigration program, announced by then President Obama, on June 15, 2012, for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States, with their parents, before the age of 16. DACA allows some individuals to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation, allowing these individuals to become eligible for a work permit in the U.S. However, the program does not provide a path to citizenship for its recipients, known as Dreamers.
There has been a lot of controversy about whether DACA is constitutional. Why? Because President Barack Obama started the DACA program by circumventing Congress, which would have voted against such legislation. This inevitably raises two arguments, very different from one another: first, the children brought to the US by their parents should not pay the price of deportation since they didn’t choose to break any immigration law. The second argument begs the question, is the DACA program a result of executive power overreach? How can the president obtain the Constitutional power to drastically alter immigration policy through executive order, without seeking approval from Congress?
The series revolves around how the lives of the Dreamers can be affected if DACA gets repealed. “I interview everyone for the new episodes. I’m very careful because these are stories of real people. You will tell me how you want the story to be. No scripts. Just them talking about their lives.” Reasonably though, a lot of those young Latinos are scared. It’s not easy to be vocal and brave, especially when you’re undocumented. You already risk your freedom by not having papers, so I can only imagine how hard it is to open up to someone else about your fears and the uncertainty of your life’s path. “When Dreamers rally, for a lot of them this is like coming out of the shadows,” Mr. Rosales told me. “I would call people I knew were immigrants to talk to them about the series and some of them wouldn’t even answer the phone. One of the interviewers who initially wanted to be part of this series changed her mind because her family is undocumented; they’re from Peru, and her brother works in the private sector so he was afraid as well. It was very sad.”
Every episode on this series is a personal story of a Latino immigrant in New York. Every individual carries a burden unknown to me. I am fortunate enough to never have been undocumented. They’ve been fortunate enough to be here and try to make their lives better, even if that means fighting their hardest, particularly now when they feel more vulnerable and exposed than ever. This series’ purpose is to “tell them that they’re not alone. They have a whole community behind them that supports them. I hope the ‘I am A Dreamer’ spreads awareness to people and becomes a workshop of what Latinos should do in case they ever face situations similar to the ones shown in the documentaries.”
As an outsider, I believe that these stories show the raw reality of an-every-day Latino immigrant in NY, and their stories are so valuable for those among them who live in fear because they are undocumented. The series really gives those people the strength to keep going, knowing someone out there is supporting them. The rhetoric of President Trump is far from ideal for immigrants, of course, and it easily frightens people, but I think we all should take a moment and have some perspective. By all means, repealing DACA would not solve any problems in the US. But how many of us out there ignore the fact that Barack Obama made it happen unilaterally? Notably, the actions of the former president, inevitably, impact what the next president can do. Obama’s actions ultimately broadened President Trump’s powers over immigration policy.
Those young people who came here simply because they followed their parents do not deserve to lose everything they’ve worked for and built in this country. For a lot of them, the US is the only home they know. The insecurity these people feel right now is only unthinkable to many of us, including me. The “I am A Dreamer,” truly feels like a community; everyday people coming together, sharing their stories and inspiring others to be fearless and courageous to do the same. If you are looking for such a place, you found it right here.
Follow the documentary series “I am a Dreamer” on YouTube and Watch ALL the episodes here: