In 2017, shortly after the Trump administration rescinded the DACA program, Alejandro Sanz recognized the plight of DREAMers on a national stage as he received “The Person of the Year” award at the Latin Grammys. That night, he brought 30 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and TPS (Temporary Protected Status) recipients on stage to sing “Corazón Partío.” Now, Alejandro is back in the U.S. touring for the first time in 10 years, and he has dedicated his tour to DREAMers.
At each of his concerts he has met with a group of DACA recipients, undocumented immigrants, and their parents. Not only has he held private meet-and-greets, he is also raising funds through the sale of a “DREAMER” t-shirt for three organizations that benefit DREAMers: Dream Big Nevada’s DACA renewal fund, Immigrants Rising’s entrepreneurship program, and my college scholarship program, The Ascend Educational Fund.
Todos somos uno. Todos los sueños importan. Únete al #DreamerTeam ??
We are all one. #WeAllDream. Because everyone matters. #DREAMERS. Join me&become part of the #DreamerTeam
?? https://t.co/nEeuvt7Frq@AscendFundNY @Astrid_NV @JulissaArce @CharityStars
?: #AlanFlores pic.twitter.com/9MsYk1NsSY
— Alejandro Sanz (@AlejandroSanz) August 21, 2019
The likes of Ricky Martin, J Balvin, Zoe Saldana, Leo Messi, Camila Cabello, Juanes, Maná, Kate del Castillo, Luis Fonsi, Juan Luis Guerra, Ricardo Montaner, and dozens of other Latinx celebrities have joined the #DreamerTeam in hopes of raising awareness and funds.
? | @zoesaldana via Instagram: "I am joining the #DreamerTeam with @AlejandroSanz so that Dreamers can continue to pursue their dreams. We can support their education, DACA renewals, and entrepreneurship programs by buying a DREAMER T-shirt at https://t.co/UJOJJaAS5s." pic.twitter.com/53w3n4ynP1
— Avengers Daily (@Avengers_Daily) September 12, 2019
I am thankful beyond words that Alejandro, and all his very famous friends, have chosen to put a spotlight on the challenges facing DREAMers. As someone who works daily on the immigrant rights movement, it can feel like using a cup to throw water out of a sinking ship with each move the Trump administration makes against immigrants. From rescinding the DACA program, to caging children, to fundamentally changing asylum laws, to denaturalizing people—all of it inflicting more and more pain in our community. Each of these moves feels more urgent than the last, but the truth is that none of these issues have gone away even as the headlines move on.
It has been 18 years since the DREAM Act was first introduced in the Senate by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). The bill would have provided a path to citizenship for young undocumented people who came to the U.S as children and who met a stringent set of qualifications. According to the American Immigration Council, there have been at least 10 versions of the DREAM Act introduced in Congress since 2001. None have passed.
Think about what has transpired in your life in the last 18 years. Perhaps you were not even born in 2001. When the DREAM Act was introduced, I was a freshman in college, and in the last 18 years I have graduated from college, lived in New York for 10 years, adopted two cats, a dog, moved to Los Angeles, got married, and changed careers. In 2001, we were excited to have “thousands of songs in our pocket,” with the first ever iPod.
Eighteen years is a lifetime and that is precisely how long DREAMers, as people who would qualify for the DREAM Act are often referred as, have waited. They have been waiting a literal lifetime for Congress to take action. While the national narrative around DREAMers often paints a picture of young undocumented people, the reality is that the common denominator among DREAMers is not that they are children now, but that they came to the U.S. as children. Many DREAMers now have young children of their own, and many of the older DREAMers were left out of the only reprieve our government has offered in almost two decades.
In 2012, President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which did not provide a pathway to citizenship, but did provide a two-year renewable work permit and protection from deportation. But because of the age restrictions, hundreds of thousands of people were left out. And the lives of those that did qualify have been upended since on September 5, 2017, Trump rescinded the DACA program. Thanks to a series of lawsuits DACA renewals were allowed to continue, but no new applications have been accepted since the program was canceled two years ago. And now the lives of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients hang on a Supreme Court decision this November. No one should have to plan their entire live around a single court decision.
It has been 18 years. DREAMers cannot wait any longer. The time for action is now. I hope the next time Alejandro tours in the U.S. we can bring back all the DREAMers he is meeting as U.S. citizens.
Julissa Arce is a speaker, writer and nationally best-selling author of My (Underground) American Dream and Someone Like Me. She was named one of People en Español’s 25 Most Powerful Woman of 2017. She is a leading voice in the fight for social justice, immigrant rights and education equality. She tweets from @julissaarce.