In 2012, former President Barack Obama took executive action to protect the lives of immigrant young people who came to the United States as children. These young people are known as Dreamers, based on proposed legislation called the Development, Education, and Relief for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act “that would have granted legal status to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and went to school here.” The DREAM Act never passed, but the Dreamers are here to stay – they’re inspiring, resilient, and persevering young people who have spent most of their lives in United States, making positive contributions to U.S. society through their educational and career pursuits. But without the DREAM act, they remain without status in the United States, navigating the challenges and hardships of being undocumented immigrants in a society that treats them as criminals. Social Workers Stand with Dreamers
President Obama’s 2012 executive order created a new program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that provided temporary work authorization and protection from deportation to qualified Dreamers. Under the Trump administration, this program has come to an end, leaving 800,000 of DACA recipients at risk of deportation and without certainty regarding what their future will hold.
In addition to advocating to preserve DACA, prevent deportation, and provide sanctuary to Dreamers and their families, amongst other needed policy reforms, here are 10 steps you can take to stand with Dreamers in your everyday work as a social service provider:
- Change your language – In the news, you might hear legal and technical terms like “illegal” and “alien” that deny the humanity of undocumented people. Do your part to change the discourse around undocumented immigrants in the United States by abandoning these terms in favor of terms that affirm the common human dignity of all people. “Undocumented person,” “DACA recipient,” and “Dreamer” are better options.
- Get informed – Social workers have an ethical responsibility to educate themselves about issues impacting their work, and one of the most important steps you can take to stand with Dreamers as a social work is to get informed about their lives and the policy and practice issues that affect them. As immigrant policy and its interpretation and enforcement directives are rapidly changing, make sure you keep up to date with these issues by re-educating yourself regularly. Social Workers Stand with Dreamers
- Offer a safe and welcoming space – Make sure your organization, agency, and office offer a safe and welcoming space for clients of any immigration status. Review intake forms, promotional materials, and posted information to ensure they are inclusive of all people, and don’t force clients to disclose their status on agency paperwork unless absolute necessary.
- Create a referral list – Dreamers and their often mixed-status families often face obstacles in seeking services. Many service providers require a social security number or only accept individuals with health insurance, severely restricting undocumented persons’ access to these services. Do the research needed to find out which health, legal, social, and educational services are available to undocumented people in your area, and create a referral list that clearly denotes this. This will allow undocumented clients to easily determine which referrals are right for them, without having to identify themselves as undocumented.
- Identify yourself as an ally – In order to gain the trust of Dreamers and their families, it is important to clearly identify yourself as an ally. You can visually communicate your support of undocumented immigrants in your office by purchasing or printing a sign or poster to hang on your door, or on your person by wearing a button or pin. These simple tasks will openly proclaim your support of undocumented persons to all of your clients and coworkers.
- Make information available in multiple languages – It is always a good idea to have printed information available in languages other than English. Even if the clients coming into your office speak English well, they might have family members who speak other languages, or feel more comfortable reading in their native language. Having information available in multiple languages is a sign of cultural inclusivity that might be particularly important for Dreamers and their families.
- Contact your elected officials – With DACA recipients facing increased risk and uncertainty, now is the time to pressure your elected officials to take whatever measures they can to protect Dreamers. Get in touch with your representatives and urge them to preserve DACA, end deportations, and fight for immigration reform. Be sure to include the need for immigration relief for not only Dreamers, but they’re parents and other family members.
- Get involved with a local organization – There are many organizations dedicated to immigrant justice, some of them founded by Dreamers and other immigrants themselves. Get involved with these organizations by donating to their causes, showing up to their events, and volunteering your time with them. Share information and collaborate with these organizations whenever possible – together, you can accomplish more.
- Provide free or low-cost services for Dreamers and their families – Not all Dreamers are in need of supportive services, but many of those who are have difficulty accessing them due to status restrictions and high costs. Consider offering free or low-cost services for Dreamers and their families. These could be informational sessions, counseling services, or support groups.
- Share your support on social media – You can help educate the public about Dreamers and immigration justice by sharing your support on social media. There are many hashtags you can use to align yourself with the movement, like #heretostay or #istandwithdreamers. You can also share your own story on social media – letting other people know how your life would be impacted if someone you know were deported.
If you are looking for additional ways to stand up for Dreamers, check out and support these leading national organizations dedicated to this work:
United We Dream: https://unitedwedream.org/
Immigrant Youth Justice League: http://www.iyjl.org/
National Immigrant Justice Center: http://www.immigrantjustice.org/
National Immigrant Youth Alliance: http://theniya.org/
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