Reframing the Dreamer Narrative

California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) hosted the Immigration Advocacy Week event We Are Not Dreamers: Undocumented Scholars Theorizing Undocumented Life in the United States on Oct. 14. The event was compiled by Leisly J. Abrego and Genevieve Negròn-Gonzales who navigated the nuances of the dreamer narrative in their book “We Are Not Dreamers” and paved an alternative and more inclusive approach forward from current attitudes about dreamers. 

The documented and formerly undocumented scholars who contributed to this piece led a panel in which they discussed issues intertwined with immigration, DACA and undocumented communities. 

This event was held in partnership with the Otter Cross Cultural Center, Otter Student Union, CSUMB Libraries, CSUMB Transfer Student Success, CSUMB Undocu-Success, CSUMB Office of Inclusive Excellence, Hartnell Community College, Gavilan College, Monterey Peninsula College and Cabrillo College.

The constructed dreamer narrative presents a one-dimensional and exclusionary approach to handling undocumented life in this country. Educational and economic achievements of undocumented youth become the means to justify paths to citizenship. Then, there comes a conversation that circulates around the topic of who belongs here and who doesn’t within the community according to academic and career success, thus leaving plenty to be excluded from this category. Academically struggling students, transgender activists and queer undocumented parents are some of the excluded groups, to name a few. 

Abrego and Negròn-Gonzales, however, crafted a compilation of essays in their book as means to take advantage of their scholarship and make a political intervention that provides expansive justice, unconditional rights and humanity to all within the community. Negròn-Gonzalez viewed the book as a methodological intervention as a way to “reshape and remake the field”. 

As young undocumented people began to gain access to higher education, there was an influx of spaces in which they could theorize, write and talk as scholars about the undocumented experience. Negròn-Gonzalez and Abrego, however, said the playing field was not catching up to make space for these important interventions.

Additionally, conversations about the undocumented experience are typically centered solely on the educational sphere, which creates an inadequate representation of immigrant life. “We Are Not Dreamers” pushes beyond this and “makes us look at the different spaces that life is touched by the undocumented existence,” said Negròn-Gonzalez.

The panel disrupted the dreamer archetype while reframing approaches towards the  immigration rights movement. 

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