"Silence isn't helping and we need to put our stories into action" : the role of narratives for the Dreamers
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My thesis analyzes the role of narratives in the consolidation of a Dreamer identity and movement for undocumented youth. The Dream movement, which initially pushed for the DREAM Act, a bill that would grant undocumented youth a pathway to residency and citizenship, has evolved into a collective effort to protect and fight for rights-enabling legislation for the entire undocumented population. This investigation uses narratives to promote an understanding of the Dream movement, taking into account a long-standing strategy of Dreamers: Stories of self lead to a collective story of us that celebrates individual experiences of a common struggle to belong in spite of a lack of papers. This story of us, in turn, leads to a story of now, a narrative of mobilization and advocacy that speaks to Dreamers’ public quest for legal recognition. The articulation of narratives allows for a sense of belonging among Dreamers who, because they are not conferred citizenship, have struggled to find acceptance and recognition as members of the United States. In spite of not having citizenship, Dreamers have been conferred benefits, such as the right to a free K-12 public school education under the 1982 Supreme Court Plyler v. Doe decision and the right to work and remain in the country for a renewable two years under President Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) directive. These benefits, utilized by Dreamers to show that they are important members of the national polity, are important elements of their narrative. By adopting a Dreamer identity, undocumented youth have realized that lack of papers is not an impediment to civic and political engagement, even if they are not given the right to vote. Dreamers, in mobilizing and advocating, exercise rights such as the ability to testify and lobby that oftentimes the average citizen does not utilize. By becoming so engaged, undocumented youth have made an important claim to citizenship that has given them a newfound visibility and recognition as rights- bearing individuals.