The 67 Sueños project was born out of the recognition that the majority of migrant youth were not being included in the national debates about their future. Our goal is to raise those/our underprivileged migrant youth voices to expand the debate and the legislative possibilities.
Whenever Americans are presented with an image of undocumented youth there are two black and white categories that we are most often pigeonholed into.
Those opposed to providing a path to legal status for undocumented youth are likely to promote images of undocumented people as “criminals”.
In these circles we are all drug runners, coyotes, gun smugglers, gang bangers and fraud artists.
On the other side of the spectrum liberals, democrats and even the immigrants rights movement is likely to offer a “sympathetic” counter narrative that highlights the most exceptional individuals in our community.
In these circles we are likely to hear only from those with 4.0 grade point averages, multiple degrees, the valedictorians, the student body presidents and others who demonstrate best that we are not "criminals".
Elbowed out of this black and white set of narratives are the majority of migrant youth who in fact are not much different from our documented classmates.
Most of us are not presidents of the student body or drug runners. Some of us get good grades but it is very hard for us to be academically competitive given our socio-economic realities and the underfunded school systems we rely on.
The poverty that runs deep through our community does, unfortunately lead some of us to crime.
We are also often excessively policed and criminalized regardless of our guilt or innocence.
Things like racial profiling in the form of ganging injunctions in Oakland CA, and laws like SB1070 in Arizona, Georgia and Alabama along with excessive pol-ice check points in our communities make us more likely to have involvements with law enforcement than our peers.
A true picture of our community would include some crime and some exceptional students but the vast majority of us are not so easily sorted into these two categories.
This black and white portrait is important because it becomes the starting point for all efforts on behalf of migrant youth. Since 2001 the main legislative relief that has been offered to migrant youth - from our life in the shadows with little opportunities after high school - has been the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would provide much needed relief but only to a small slice of the undocumented youth community.
Namely those who graduate high school and are able to attend a 4-year institution for 2 years on their own dime and those high school graduates or GED acquiring students who are willing and able to join the Military in time of War. These are options that leave the vast majority, 67% by some estimates, of undocumented youth elbowed out of the legislative lifeline.
The same 67% missing from the national narratives is the 67% left out of legislative efforts, hence the name 67 Sueños. We hope to tell our own stories through video interviews, stories of migrant youth who are not 4.0 students or hardened “criminals”. These videos will be the vehicle by which we inject the realities and perspectives of the missing 67 percent into the immigrant’s rights movement and the national dialogue.
First we join the conversations, next we demand to be included in the legislative efforts. As we collect stories and sharpen our connections and understanding to this underrepresented community we will be meeting with members of congress to advocate for everyone left out of the current efforts. To borrow a powerful quote from the disability rights movement, "Nothing About Us Without Us!"