The Obama administration's announcement that it will grant deportation relief and work visas to nearly 1 million dreamers is the culmination of a decade-long struggle by a committed group of activists.
Since 2002, when I served as commissioner of immigrant affairs in New York City, activity around the Dream Act has buoyed and deflated the hopes of young people of all ethnic backgrounds from around the country.
As a youth worker, a community organizer, an employer and a public official, I sat in rooms with South Asian, Mexican, Haitian, and African youth who explained how their ambitions would never be fully realized until they achieved full legal status in the U.S. And this week, in Time magazine, Emilio Vicente from Guatemala put it like this: "I want to be free so I can reach my full potential."
Emilio is one of 35 undocumented immigrants featured in the Time cover story, and as striking as their bravery is, so is their commitment to community work.
Many of these young people want to be doctors, lawyers, and teachers as a means of bringing critical services and justice to their communities. And some explicitly want to run for office in their state, like Mexican immigrant Erika Andiola who now lives in Arizona, or for Congress, like Manuel Bartsch, who moved to the U.S. from Germany.