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posted: 6/14/2013 5:00 AM

DREAMs for our fathers and mothers, too

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  • Carlos, right, and Rafael Robles

      Carlos, right, and Rafael Robles

 
By Carlos Robles

"Your sons are in jail," someone said to our mom and dad one day. These were words they never wanted to hear. Their reason to move to this country had been to save us from hardship, to give us a future. But, hey, we broke the law of the land by being here without papers. On my brother's 19th birthday, we were questioned by Border Patrol on an Amtrak train and spent a long weekend in jail near Buffalo, N.Y., because we did not have proper immigration status.

Thanks to support from our community, we eventually had our deportation proceedings put on hold, and a year later we were granted deferred action under President Obama's plan for "childhood arrivals" -- those of us whose parents brought us to the U.S. at a young age but have no way to legalize our status. It was somewhat of a consolation prize for Congress' continued failure to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act -- also known as the DREAM Act, a path to citizenship for immigrant youth that was first introduced more than 10 years ago -- or any other type of immigration reform.

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Another year has passed, and now Congress is closer than it has been in decades to reaching enough consensus on immigration to meaningfully reform the system. The bill being debated on the Senate floor this month includes a strong version of the DREAM Act. If passed, immigrants like my brother and me, who were brought to the U.S. before age 16, would have a shorter path to citizenship than our parents, who would face a 10-year wait before they could even apply for green cards (and then another three-year wait to naturalize).

Most people support a law that would give a legal status to children who were brought here "against their will," as our story is often framed. We, the DREAMers, are the ones who get all the attention. We've come to be seen by many as the forefront of the undocumented movement, the future of the country. The main draw to our support is that we have good moral character and value hard work and diligence.

But legislators and voters often forget where those qualities came from.

Those qualities came from years of encouragement and support to stay strong against all odds. Years of lessons on how to tell right from wrong. From being reprimanded when we got out of line, when we slacked off. From encouragement to keep going when we wanted to give up. Guess who uttered those words? Our parents.

It is a mistake to believe that any DREAMer is self-made. Most of us have our fathers and mothers to thank.

This Father's Day, we'll be thanking our dads and all DREAMers' parents for their role in bringing us so close to the American DREAM -- now spelled as an acronym that represents possibilities for immigrant youth. But we also need to open others' eyes about what still needs to happen.

We need to give credit where credit is due. Immigration reform must address the millions of families behind us DREAMers. If we want to reward good values and a strong work ethic, then our fathers and mothers and millions of others perfectly fit that profile. Comprehensive, humane immigration reform that gives our parents a real opportunity to become citizens themselves is what will keep families together and will continue to foster the family values we treasure as Americans. But until that day, we'll keep fighting as our mom and dad taught us. To them, we say thank you, we love you, and happy Father's Day.

• Carlos Robles is a studying to be a teacher at Loyola University of Chicago and is a tennis coach at Palatine High School. At Loyola he is working to launch a scholarship fund for undocumented students.

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