Through a documentary set to air this weekend, Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim tells the “brave” stories of undocumented youth whose future hinges on an immigration reform that would allow them to become citizens.
“When Dreamers tell their stories, it’s very moving,” he said last month. “We’ve been filming all around the country, and as we tell these stories of these incredible people, I am so moved.”
Guggenheim is best known for exploring global warming through his film “An Inconvenient Truth” and exposing the dismal state of the nation’s public education system through “Waiting for Superman”.
Now, he is taking on immigration and the struggles undocumented youth face through his new documentary, titled “The Dream is Now”. It is set to premiere for the first time on television this Sunday at 4:00 p.m. ET on MSNBC.
“The Dream is Now” is part of a national campaign launched in January that advocates for immigration reform and the DREAM Act, legislation that would allow certain undocumented youth to become citizens.
A pre-release private screening of the film took place in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, the same day thousands rallied outside the U.S. Capitol building in support of immigration reform. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), who attended the screening, described two of the Dreamers featured in “The Dream is Now” as “outstanding young adults” through his Twitter account.
— Xavier Becerra (@RepBecerra) April 10, 2013
‘The Dream is Now’ tells the stories of four Dreamers
Guggenheim said Tuesday during an interview with MSNBC that “The Dream is Now” intends to put a human face to the immigration issue by telling the stories of four Dreamers.
“My hope is that if they watch this 30-minute movie, it’ll open people’s minds to these people who are fighting—they’re trying to live the American dream and we have to work really hard to let them,” Guggenheim told MSNBC.
One of the Dreamers featured in the documentary is Alejandro Morales, who attended a Chicago high school that trains youth to join the military. He wants to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps but isn’t eligible, because he doesn’t have a legal status.
Ola Kaso, also featured in “The Dream is Now,” is a Dreamer who is studying biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan. She dreams of attending medical school and becoming a surgical oncologist, but her undocumented status may prevent her from making her dreams a reality.
Erika Andiola, a Dreamer who graduated from Arizona State University in 2009, tells the story in the film of how she was able to stop the deportation of her mother and is now fighting for immigration reform. Andiola has also been a vocal advocate of the DREAM Act.
Jose Patino is the fourth Dreamer who appears in “The Dream is Now”. He recently spoke with VOXXI about the struggles he faced growing up in Arizona and throughout his journey to get a college education.
College as a way out
Patino, who came to the U.S. from Mexico at age 6, spent his summer vacations as a teenager working alongside his father and uncles applying stucco. He quickly realized that is not what he wanted to do for a living, so he set his mind to getting a college education.
In high school, the 24-year-old Dreamer challenged himself by taking advanced courses, getting A’s and B’s and being involved in sports. He graduated high school in 2007 with a 4.3 GPA and 24 college credits.
His hard work paid off when Arizona State University awarded him a merit-based scholarship that would cover most of his tuition for four years. But that scholarship was taken away in 2007 when Arizona implemented a state law that banned undocumented immigrants from receiving state and federal financial aid and required them to pay out-of-state tuition.
Patino got the news about the scholarship being taken away shortly before attending his high school senior assembly, where he received many awards, including male senior of the year. He said that though he felt proud of receiving the awards that night, he left the assembly feeling disappointed because he knew he wouldn’t be able to attend ASU after all.
“I cried on my way home from the assembly,” he told VOXXI. “I knew I had made my mom proud, but I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to do anything.”
And though he worked hard in high school to avoid having to work applying stucco, that’s what he found himself doing the next day after his high school graduation.
Dreamer struggles as he seeks a better life
Just when Patino had lost hope of attending ASU, the university surprised him when it awarded him a private scholarship that would cover his tuition. He began attending ASU in August 2007.
Ultimately, the ASU scholarship was discontinued just as Patino was completing his first year in college. But with the help of a private scholarship, he was able to cover the cost of tuition for three years and graduate from ASU in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
Upon graduation, Patino faced the harsh reality many undocumented college students face when they graduate from college: His undocumented status would forbid him from using his college degree to work.
And just like after high school, he found himself going to work applying stucco right after graduating from ASU.
“I felt very disappointed,” he told VOXXI. “That’s what I did when I graduated from middle school. That’s what I did when I graduated from high school and that’s what I’m going to do now.”
Fast-forward two years: Patino is now benefiting from the new deferred action program that protects undocumented youth from deportation and gives them work authorization.
But even with these benefits, he still can’t use his degree because most of the engineering jobs require employees to be permanent legal residents or citizens. He said his dream job would be one that allows him to build projects that are “essential to the city” and “help people.”
Immigration reform: An opportunity to prove myself
Patino’s future now hinges on an immigration reform. He said an ideal immigration reform would be one that “allows people to prove themselves and show why they should be given an opportunity to become U.S. citizens.”
He said the best way to convince people to support an immigration reform is by telling the stories of undocumented immigrants.
“There are many people who have different stories, and if you pay attention to these stories, you’ll understand why this is necessary,” he said of immigration reform. “We need to get beyond the whole argument of ‘hey, you broke the law’ because not all laws are just.”
He added, “America by itself is not great. The people within it make it great, so why are we denying people the opportunity to prove themselves? All I want and what other people want is the opportunity to prove ourselves.”