How I learned about the Dream Act

So here’s a thing about “Crossings,” the short story I’ll have out in the Bordertown anthology this spring: my protagonist, Miranda, came to the United States illegally from Mexico as an infant. That’s not the only thing the story is about, but when it begins Miranda is (among other things) a teen facing possible deportation.

When I began writing the story, I had this idea that I’d find some convenient way for her family not to be deported after all. I began researching immigration law and got in touch with an immigration lawyer, looking for what I was thinking of as a simple plotting solution that I could toss off in a line a two in the story’s final paragraphs.

What I learned was, the solution I was looking for did not exist.

I learned that maybe, if one of my protagonist’s American citizen brothers had a serious enough medical condition, possibly my protagonist’s parents would be allowed to stay in the U.S. But my teen protagonist would still be deported without them. (I had to reread the email explaining this to make sure I understood. A minor can be forced to leave this country alone. Truly.)

I learned that my protagonist’s younger brothers, once adults, could request that my protagonist be allowed back into this country. If she was lucky, 14 years after her request was submitted, she would be allowed to return.

I learned that my protagonist’s parents couldn’t have come here legally even if they’d been willing to wait 14 years, or longer–because there was no line for them to get into, no legal way to enter this country at all.

Miranda, of course, is fictional. Learning these things merely meant I had to replot my story, and, in the way of such things, made my story stronger.

But thousands of teens just like her are not fictional. They’ve grown up in this country, have been shaped by it, and know it in as deep a way as any of us do. They’re working as hard as any of us, but even so they’re graduating from high school knowing that, unlike all the other teens they’ve grown up alongside, they can’t simply go to college, continue working hard, build a life here, and contribute to the lives of the rest of us who live here with them.

The Dream Act is trying to change this. It would allow at least some undocumented students who graduate high school to get a temporary residence permit under the condition that they go to college or enlist in the military.

The Dream Act is being debated in the House as we speak, and may be voted on today. I’ve called my representative to let her know I support it, and was told she’s still listening to opinions from constituents before deciding how to vote. Maybe your representative is still listening as well. If you think letting kids who’ve grown up here go to college and stay here is a good idea, today would be an excellent day to call and tell him or her so.

I don’t say this often, but I would really love it if, one day soon, I had to explain to readers why my new short story was already so terribly dated.

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