Webmaster’s Note: As immigration becomes a more amplified issue in the GOP race for President, especially in regards to the actions of Governor Rick Perry and his support for the TX State DREAM Act, it is worth listening to what one DREAMer in Texas has experienced.
By Thailandia Alaffita
Every morning, for fourteen years, I rose from my desk at school automatically, and pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. I don’t remember how I learned it, much less how I learned it when my native language was Spanish. I suppose, that after hearing something over and over, and repeating it over and over, it becomes true, it becomes a part of you – whether it is or not.
Much like being American is a fact for Dreamers, not just a dream. We grow up hearing over and over that we are American, that we will all go to college, and have a career not just a job, and that we live in a country of freedom and justice. That we are just like everybody else. We hear it so much we believe it.
When I was younger, I was able to say the pledge with my right hand over my heart, my back straight, my voice steady and my eyes fixed on the prize. I never thought about what word came next, I just knew it. I had memorized it. In my years in college though, I learned that memorizing things doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve learned it.
It wasn’t until now, that I am back in the school setting, that I’ve been really listening to what I’m saying when I’m pledging allegiance to the flag. I enunciate each word perfectly and with such precision as if each word is crucial to the overall meaning of the pledge (as an English major I really believe this). I want so badly to be able to say that I am pledging allegiance to a flag of a country that is mine.
Now, however, my right hand struggles to find the heart it should go over, as we all know that home is where the heart is, and this country says I am not home. My voice quivers and breaks every time I say “liberty and justice for all” because for years I believed it true, and secretly I think I still do. And I close my eyes now, as I imagine a country that lives up to its promises. And the only thing that is still as it used to be is my perfect standing because no matter what I still love my flag, I still believe in my flag, and I still respect my flag. All I am asking is that the flag that I love so dearly loves, believes, and respects me too.
I grew up hearing from all my teachers, like every other little boy and girl, that I was college material, that if I worked hard I would thrive, and that if I really wanted something I would get it, for I was in the country of opportunities and here, anything was possible. I believed that my hard work would pay off, and that in this country, we all had our personal fairy godmother and all we had to do was really want something.
I tell this to my students now too, and can’t help but wonder if as teachers we are just conditioned to tell this to all our students and just hope for the best, hope that they all make it, or at the very least that some do. But what happens to the students like me, and like all my Dreamer friends, who despite all odds are trying to make it, and believe that all their hard work will pay off, but then they finish college and realize that they have hit a road block that all the hope and want and need simply cannot move?