1) Jose features in the documentary The Dream is Now as a result of his background as an undocumented child immigrant and as a result of his outstanding academic performance. In a key way he represents the contradiction that the documentary sees at the heart of the dreamers’ experience. As an exceptional maths scholar, Jose was granted a full scholarship to Arizona State University with the aim of going on to become a mechanical engineer. Despite graduating successfully and despite there being an apparent shortage or mechanical engineers in his state, Joe was unable to apply for the same jobs as his classmates, a situation that came about as a result of his undocumented status. At the time of the documentary, he is shown working as a laborer, insisting that he is often depressed and unable to understand why it is that he is performs manual labor despite possessing high grade qualifications.
In line with his depictions, the documentary shows Jose, along with the other individuals that it features, as being inherently hard working and often as exceptional citizens, who are prevented from achieving their potential due to the injustice of immigration law. In each case, the individuals featured in the documentary are shown to possess exceptional abilities, together with a community spirit and a desire to be a positive benefit to society. Although not every student is academic, those who are not are shown to exceptional leaders, such as Alejandro who excelled are a student cadet, but who is prevented from joining the military proper as a result of his immigration status.
A key part of this portrayal is the presentation of community in the lives of people featured. Each person featured is shown to experience a sense of belonging in the area in which they live and to have actively contributed to generating this belonging in others. At the same time, however, the individuals are shown to live with a sense of profound bureaucratic isolation produced by their lack of citizenship and their inability to be recognized as citizens.
Importantly, however, the individuals shown actively combat this isolation through the act of collective organization, something that brings them closer to their supporters and to people of a similar status to themselves. In this way, the inclusiveness of community and of group organization is directly juxtaposed to the legalistic exclusions of immigration law. As such, by responding to their situations through acts of organizations and solidarity, the students depicted are shown both to combat the sense of isolation that they experience and also to campaign for real change within the bureaucratic structures that produce and maintain this isolation.
2) Mwanji Kwad is an individual from the Democratic Republic of Congo who arrived in the U.S. at the age of four. The key events of his story involve his arrival in America, his mother’s falling love with his stepfather, his stepfather’s death when he was twelve years old, his own mother’s death when he was fifteen and his referral to INS during his first year at Hamilton College.
The events that Kwad describes communicate the difficulty dreamers face in several key ways. First and foremost, it is clear that his own immigration “nightmare” was exacerbated as the the result of personal tragedy. As he notes, his stepfather and mother had never filed papers for him, meaning that when they died he was effectively left “without a path to citizenship” (p. 1). Such a situation would never have come about were it not for the immense personal loss that Mwanji suffered, thus illustrating the manner in which those with insecure immigration statuses often find that personal tragedies are compounded by an added experience of vulnerability brought about by their insecure status. Alongside this, Kwad also describes the tendency for immigration proceedings to take dreamers by surprise, as they are often unaware of their danger of deportation that they face, meaning that they remain
unprepared and are unable to take appropriate action in order to protect themselves.
As a result of these features, Kwad’s story conveys an image of the undocumented migrant as extremely hard working, but as fundamentally let down by a system that they have little control over and that does not make its workings accessible to them. He matches what one commentator describes as the dominant view of the dreamer as “eager and hardworking” and as someone who “did not choose their station in life” (Jordan, 2018). At the same time, the piece also presents Kwad as someone who is firmly convinced that they have a right to stay in the country, but who is nonetheless made deeply nervous and unsure by the immigration processes that they have been through, a process that has produced a heightened awareness of their own vulnerability. Indeed, this vulnerability is especially moving, as Kwad states that he effectively begun to internalize a sense of guilt as a result of the proceedings he has passed through. This guilt continues to persist in spite of the fact that he convinced that he has done nothing wrong and that he has a legitimate right to remain in America.
As a result of this combination of factors, the tone of the piece is articulate, moderate and considered, although at several points in the testimony, Kwad makes clear that he is deeply anxious as a result of his experiences. Although this anxiety does not lend the piece a tone of direct desperation, it does show itself in key elements of the writing, especially when Kwad describes uncertainty regarding his future.
- Kwad, Mwanji. (N.D.) The Prepared Statement of Mwaji Kwad.
- Jordan, Miriam. (2018). Most Americans Want Legal Status for Dreamers. These People
Don’t. The New York Times. Accessed 5th November, 2018.