The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do. – Sarah Ban Breathnach
Dreamers and Doers.
Is there anything more American than these two words? We are a nation made up of those who believe in what could be and who don’t shy away from putting in the work to make it a reality. When I think of what these words embody, I think of two groups found within the immigrant community – DACA recipients and farmworkers. They are dreamers and doers, through and through.
I know this because to me they are not just numbers and news stories, they are my family, friends and church members that I do life with. Their hands and faces are permanently marked with blood, sweat, tears and their hearts filled with hope that it’ll all pay off someday.
As a daughter of immigrants, I grew up hearing the stories of how my parents lived with a daily fear of deportation for many years. After having lived in a labor camp, they were finally able to purchase their first home while working in the agricultural fields of California’s Central Valley. Although I’ll never fully understand the fear, sacrifice and discrimination they endured, I can tell you this – I reap the benefits of their dreaming and doing every day.
Sadly, immigrants have been used as pawns on both sides of the aisle for far too long. When we base our response solely on a political party’s platform, we miss God’s call for compassion. We have to guard our hearts from indifference and commit to not only taking a stance, but to walking with people, hearing their stories and advocating on their behalf.
Deuteronomy 24:17-22 says, “True justice must be given to foreigners living among you and to orphans, and you must never accept a widow’s garment as security for her debt. Always remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from your slavery.”
True justice happens when we remember that we once were in the margins and someone saw us and acted on our behalf. In order to advocate, we must believe in the inherent value of every person. We cannot pick and choose when we want to see God’s image in others. We must believe that immigrants are valuable, not only because of the economic contributions they produce (more on that ahead) but simply because God created them. When politics try to dehumanize or vilify them, the Church is called to defend the image of God that they represent.
It’s ironic that the immigrant farmworkers who are currently considered essential-workers by the federal government, so that they can continue to put food on our tables, are the same ones who have been told to go back to where they came from. The New York Times recently reported that farmworkers have been given a letter stating that they are considered “critical to the food supply chain” by The Department of Homeland Security. Perhaps it has taken a pandemic to make that official statement but the truth is, they have always been critical, not only to our food supply chain, but to our communities at large. According to Immigration Forum, the economic contributions of undocumented farmworkers sums up to $9 billion a year. They have been showing up before the sun rises, working through raging summers and cold winters to place food on our tables long before 2020. They are not only essential, they are valuable, both in God’s eyes and for our communities across the U.S.
True justice happens when we remember that we once were in the margins and someone saw us and acted on our behalf. In order to advocate, we must believe in the inherent value of every person. We cannot pick and choose when we want to see God’s image in others.
The nearly 800,000 DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, are young people who were brought to the U.S. as minors, many of them as infants. They have grown up as Americans in every sense of the word, with the exception of having the proper documentation. Under a provisional program called Deferred Action, and having passed a background check, these young people have been given work permits. The contributions they make to the U.S., not only in the economic sense, but in their social service, including in the military, are immeasurable. In 2017 alone, according to the PBS article, What ending DACA could cost the U.S. economy, Dreamers contributed $23 billion into our economy and paid $4 billion in taxes. They are sons and daughters, students, parents, business owners and professionals who live with a constant cloud of uncertainty looming over their heads.
Yes, their contributions are great, but our care towards immigrants should not be founded on economic numbers, but on God’s principles of love and compassion. Let’s stop picking sides and start following the Way of the Cross. This isn’t about hand-outs but rather about advocating for an opportunity for the millions of law-abiding immigrant farmworkers and DACA recipients to have the space to continue dreaming and doing in the land of the free and the home of the brave.