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Erick Huerta Headshot

The "Dreamer" Stereotype - No Two Dreamers Are Alike

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The term "Dreamer" has become synonymous in describing anyone who would qualify for the Federal DREAM Act, but also in talking about undocumented college students in a manner that's politically correct. It's a familiar narrative that reads like a shopping list in front of the camera. Great GPA? Check. Valedictorians? Check. Enrolled in advance placement classes? Check. Brought to the U.S. by parents through no fault of their own? Check. Overcame insurmountable odds and is the first in their family to go to college? Check.

Whether someone self identifies as a Dreamer or is labeled as such, the term itself has become any other stereotype that overpowers that person's individuality. The undocumented student movement has its origins and roots with high school and college student activism, but after organizing within our communities for more than a decade, we're hardly students anymore. I don't think anyone ever gave a thought to what it would mean to be a 30-something Dreamer when this movement first started. I'm 27 and like others in the movement, my thoughts are in moving on to the next chapter of my life, traveling and making something happen. They're the guiding force behind the choices we have to make for our families and ourselves.

As such, it's been a sort of unspoken agreement within our movement that we had to perpetuate the stereotype that all Dreamers are overachieving honor roll students. We all knew that it was all for the greater good: to change American's perception of what it means to be an undocumented student who would qualify for the DREAM Act. To this day, that rhetoric still continues in documentaries, studies, and in the mainstream media. Nevertheless, it is one that is continuously changing and still growing.

For the first time in this movement, we are seeing a chink in the chain as transitions are being made. Those who paved the roads that thousands have followed through undergrad, graduate school, and even at the Doctorate level have been transitioning out of the movement, moving on with their lives by adjusting their legal status and finally becoming residents. Queer and undocumented brothers and sisters in the movement have been taking ownership of their identities and changing the discourse of what it means to be gay in the undocumented community, and undocumented in the gay community. And as these spaces fluctuate, the chink in the chain is being held together by a new generation of individuals who share the earnest experience of growing up undocumented, but they are making it their own experience.

They're not all overachieving honor roll students anymore. Like us, they're balancing two worlds. They are finding support in networks created within the last 10 years and building on them. They're redefining what it means to be a Dreamer and taking the chances that many of us wouldn't have taken if we were in their position, given the environment we lived in. Those restrictions aren't there anymore, and the continual support we've built as a movement will. Only time will tell what the next 10 years bring and what new identities will come to define the Dreamer.