Immigrant of the Year: The DREAMer
Despite the lack of immigration reform (few seriously expected it to come in an election year), 2012 was far from quiet on the immigration front.
While the issue was not discussed as often as some would like during the presidential campaign, immigration did play a part in the political conversation. The year started out with candidates trying to out-conservative each other in the Republican primaries and ended with voters flatly rejecting Mitt Romney's proposal of "self-deportation" and fresh promises from the re-elected president to pursue comprehensive immigration reform in 2013.
Outside the rhetoric, both President Obama and the U.S. Supreme Court spoke on the matter, with the former extending deferred action to certain childhood arrivals and the latter striking down the majority of Arizona's anti-immigrant SB 1070.
Of course, President Obama also oversaw a record number of deportations in 2012.
Regardless of the fears expressed by some, immigrants continued to make valuable contributions to the U.S. in 2012, including the army's soldier of the year. Immigrants and their children continued to contribute to our sciences, businesses, government & politics, education, athletics and society.
Still, very few risked more than those brought here as children, so called DREAMers.
Countless risked deportation to countries they do not know in order to publicly advocate for the rights of other immigrants as well as their own. They organized regional and national organizations, took to the streets and informed their communities through blogs and social media.
In an election season in which their votes would not be counted, they made sure their voices were heard, turning up at campaign rallies and at campaign offices to make sure they were not ignored.
When President Obama announced the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services would be extending deferred action to some DREAMers, many set up immigration forums and application drives to make sure their communities were informed.
DREAMers were active on the state and local levels as well, standing up to the spread of Alabama and Arizona-style immigration laws in other states, filing lawsuits and influencing state and local policies.
Such actions take guts. They also deserve recognition.
Had many DREAMers not taken the time to stand up for their themselves and their communities, it is doubtful deferred action would have ever come to pass. It is also doubtful comprehensive immigration reform would be such a big priority for both political parties going into 2013. Without such efforts, it is likely that anti-immigrant laws in the same vein as those found in Arizona and Alabama would have spread.
If the promise of immigration reform is achieved this coming year, the DREAMers will be in large part the ones to thank.
Photo courtesy of Justice, Peace, & Integrity of Creation