For Dreamers like me: The story of one Jewish Dreamer
Guest columnistOne Jewish Dreamer calls for certainty and stability

For Dreamers like me: The story of one Jewish Dreamer

In the Torah, we are called to welcome the stranger. But with DACA participants, our task is easier. We are not strangers.

Protesters march with signs in support of Dreamers and a clean Dream Act at a Pittsburgh march in January. (Photo by Lauren Rosenblatt)
Protesters march with signs in support of Dreamers and a clean Dream Act at a Pittsburgh march in January. (Photo by Lauren Rosenblatt)

My name is Elias Rosenfeld, and I am a 20-year-old student at Brandeis University in Boston, where I am studying political science and sociology with a legal studies minor. I am also a DACA recipient.

I came to the United States legally, on a visa, with my mom and sister when I was 6 years old, from Caracas, Venezuela. My mother came here on an L1 visa, which enabled her and us toward a legal pathway to a green card and eventual citizenship.

Sadly, my mother never got this opportunity. When I was in fourth grade, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer and ultimately passed away when I was in sixth grade. Her death, however, had ramifications beyond the normal emotional pain of losing a parent at such a young age.

Her death meant I fell out of status, because our nation’s immigration system is broken, and has no mechanism in place for when a parent, like my mom, passes away.

I, like many others, discovered my status when I couldn’t apply for a driving learner’s permit the summer of eighth grade. It seemed incomprehensible how someone like I, who had won the U.S. history award every year in middle school, lacked the basic privileges I assumed I had as an American.

However, luckily for me, DACA was announced at the start of my freshman year of high school, providing me with basic opportunities I could not acquire before.

DACA enabled me to graduate at the top of my class, speak at my high school graduation and acquire a privately funded full merit scholarship at Brandeis University, where I am studying to pursue a career in law.

DACA has allowed me to experience a diverse set of opportunities, ranging from interning in the U.S. Senate to being selected as the only freshman in Brandeis’ history department to win the Linda Heller Kamm Award for Social Justice. I am also a sophomore columnist for the university’s official publication.

However, all my hard work in the last 19 years is at stake, because since Sept. 5, I have been unable to clearly see my future in my only home. Come August, my DACA status expires, and my life will be thrust into imminent chaos.

My education is in jeopardy, but I could also be detained and deported to a country I do not call home. DACA’s expiration means going back to a country where I do not even command the native language and a city which is now ranked as the deadliest in the world. The constant thought of deportation is now a topic I wake up every morning thinking about.

Without congressional action, I will become a priority for deportation — along with 800,000 other DACA recipients who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans.

It is urgent for lawmakers to come together and pass a bipartisan compromise that would allow Dreamers like myself to continue contributing and serving our communities, here in the United States. Congress must remember that any immigration bill they pass will take months to fully implement, which is why it’s so critical for them to pass legislation immediately, without delay.

More than 15,000 Dreamers have lost their work authorization and deportation protections since President Trump eliminated the DACA program last year. Every single day, 122 other Dreamers lose their status — and this trend will continue until Congress takes action to affirmatively protect us from deportation.

Come March, that number rises to 1,200 Dreamers losing protections every single day. I urge you to count from 1 to 1,200 in your head to see the dramatic impact this will have on our workforce and economy, and on American families every single day.

Protecting Dreamers is also a religious issue, particularly for me as a member of the Jewish community. In the Torah, we are called 36 times to welcome the stranger. This, combined with our community’s shared experience as immigrants from Egypt up to the Holocaust, informs our commitment to the Dream Act.

In Leviticus 19:34, God commands the Israelites: “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love them as yourself.”

We are called to welcome the stranger. But with DACA participants, our task is easier. We are not strangers.

Dreamers are already firmly established within the American community. Which is why last week, hundreds of Jewish leaders like Rabbi Jonah Pesner were willing to risk arrest for their fellow Dreamers.

For Dreamers like me, the certainty and stability that permanent protections would provide is an urgent issue. Just two months ago, shortly after Thanksgiving, I learned that my grandfather in Venezuela had passed away unexpectedly. Growing up, he was a dear father figure to me and in many ways was a direct connection to my mother and one of the few adults in my entire life I could count on.

He would visit me in Florida and taught me the importance of hard work, the value of family and the power of prayer and religion. He was a tremendously influential person in my life.

After his passing, I was forced to watch his funeral via cellphone videos because my DACA status did not allow me to leave the country to be by his side at that critical time.

Protecting Dreamers is an issue that is both urgent and imminent. There is strong bipartisan support in Congress to allow Dreamers like me to stay here, and it is something that 80 percent of Americans would like to see be resolved.

I urge every member to follow their constituents and pass a legislative solution for Dreamers that is rooted in compromise, the fundamental basis of our nation and U.S Constitution. PJC

Elias Rosenfeld is one of the few Jewish Dreamers. He is a college student in Boston.

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