Alaa worked in our communications department over several months and is one of the many DREAMers being stifled by our country’s broken immigration system. Please support her and 2.1 million others by calling a U.S. Senator today: http://action.dreamactivist.org/movedream/
I was born in Kuwait, the daughter of working class Palestinians. After the first Gulf War, when thousands of Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait, we lost everything we had built there. We left for Jordan with only our car and a few belongings. In Jordan my father struggled to find a stable job, and after much deliberation we sold whatever we had left and immigrated to America in 1993. I was in the second grade and had no idea at the time that we would never see our family back home, that our visa was a tourist visa that would expire soon thereafter, that I would be ineligible for financial aid when I reached college, or that I my status would outweigh my qualifications in trying to land a job.
Growing up on Chicago’s South Side, all I knew was that if I wanted to be successful I had to work hard. It’s a simple formula that has for centuries been the foundation of this experiment known as America. I worked hard, was at the top of my classes, and graduated with a degree in architecture. Then I crashed headfirst into the “invisible wall.” My life is at a standstill. It’s like being stuck in time, except I’m still aging and mind has begun withering. I can’t get a job, can’t travel freely, and can’t go back to school. But I continue to dream.
I was told to get in line, but there is no line to stand in. I was told that I’m illegal and therefore a criminal, but for years, immigrants like your parents and grandparents received their papers at Ellis Island as soon as they stepped off their ships. I was told that it’s immigrants like me who suck the welfare system without paying for it, but my family has paid and filed for taxes every year for the last seventeen years. And my parents and I don’t get anything from the welfare system.
I was told the country’s economy would be a lot better if we illegals can just go back to our own countries but it’s the underpaid laborers who have kept your local restaurant, farm, grocery, and (fill in the blank) open during this recession. Whether we like it or not our country depends on a monstrous cycle of finding cheaper and cheaper labor. We bring undocumented workers in, luring them with promises of a better life when we need them, and we scapegoat them when we don’t need them. And yes we do lure them in. We have done so since 1800s. Demand for immigration is like demand for a product. Except we forget that we’re not dealing with products; we’re dealing with people.
Millions of immigrants have crossed the seas, burying behind them a bitter and unpleasant past in the hopes of starting anew with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work. America is about what you make of yourself, not of what you have inherited. It is about how far your talent and mind can get you, not how your papers can cut your dreams short.
Because of our status, millions of people like me are not considered American. Worst yet, we’re often considered un-American. Why? A passport cannot label me. I am a Muslim, an Arab, a Palestinian, and an American. I am all of these things together. I breathe American air, travel on American roads, eat American food, listen to American radio, watch American T.V., dress in American clothing. A piece of paper cannot define me. I have attended private and public American schools, read American authors, was taught by American teachers, speak with an American accent, passionately debate American politics and use American idioms and expressions.
A number cannot identify me. I have an American name, its origins are Arabic, and its meaning is meaningless unless I give it a meaning. I am American, and Americans come from many countries from a single world. And if all people are created equal then papers, passports, and numbers should have lost relevance but they haven’t. They still hold the power to limit me. But I am an American and I continue to dream.
Please support Alaa and the many others like her by calling making a call to the U.S. Senate today: http://action.dreamactivist.org/movedream/