The American Dream

   Protestors recently staged a march in downtown Chattanooga in support of DACA. Photo by Peyden Valentine.

Protestors recently staged a march in downtown Chattanooga in support of DACA. Photo by Peyden Valentine.

Are you a U.S. citizen? Are you a U.S. resident? Do you have a social security card? Fortunately, most of us can say, “Yes!” to these questions. The answer to those questions determines if one can live the American Dream or not. According to, the American Dream is “the ideal that every U.S. citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.” Recently this dream has been unrealized for the Dreamers.

Who are the Dreamers? The Dreamers are approximately 800,000 immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally when they were children. In 2012, President Obama established a policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA protected those thousands of immigrants from deportation. With this policy enacted, the Dreamers could live the American Dream.

In February of 2017, Trump stated “We love the dreamers. We love everybody.” On September 5, 2017, however, President Trump enacted a plan to repeal DACA, removing protections for the Dreamers in six months. He asked Congress to create a replacement for DACA in that time. Since then, many immigrants who have built their lives based on DACA protections have begun to live in fear of deportation. Does this threat to uproot people from their lives express love to the Dreamers?

One Dreamer provides an extreme example of the effect DACA’s repeal can have. One 18-year-old immigrant, Joaquin Luna Jr., wondered if he could live the American Dream without documentation. Joaquin was born in Mexico. He came to the United States as an infant and moved to Hidalgo County, one of the poorest counties in Texas.

Poverty constantly knocked at his door, but Joaquin was determined not to succumb. He applied himself to his studies, and was ranked 89 out of 467 students in his graduating class. On weekends, Joaquin mowed lawns to pay for guitar lessons. He hoped to become a civil engineer or an architect and even constructed some blueprints for a new home for his mother. This young man was living the American Dream. He worked hard, was determined to succeed, and took the initiative to reach his goals. Despite all this, Joaquin knew that his undocumented status would always be a barrier to lasting success. When the U.S. Senate failed to pass the Dream Act — a predecessor to DACA—in 2010, he was left with no hope, no determination, and no reason to live.

On the morning of November 25, 2011, Joaquin woke up and put on a maroon shirt and tie. He lay down next to his mother and reportedly told her that he was never going to be the person he wanted to be. Joaquin then proceeded to the bathroom with a gun in his hand. He placed the gun under his chin and pulled the trigger. Joaquin took his life because he knew he could not live the American Dream.

When DACA was passed, many undocumented immigrants suddenly had the hope that Joaquin was denied.  They believed that they could live the American Dream, so they pursued it. Now that President Trump has repealed DACA, many undocumented immigrants’ lives have been called into question. Their jobs, families, homes—everything has been endangered.

After many immigrants have contributed to American prosperity and success, the United States government questions if DACA recipients can truly live the American Dream. The Dreamers are angry and afraid. And can we blame them for feeling this way? The Dreamers are people who have lived the American Dream. They have led productive lives as students, entrepreneurs, soldiers, doctors, first responders in recent natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey, and so much more.

Many Dreamers are living the American Dream better than natural-born Americans who do not have the same appreciation for the freedoms found in this country. It is wrong for President Trump to repay the Dreamers by refusing to allow them to continue to live the American Dream. We need the Dreamers and the Dreamers need us.