As a 25-year-old, I, Bruno, am exhausted.
I teach college-level English to high school students. Every Monday, I leave right after school to work on my second master’s degree. The rest of my weekdays, I return home very late to lesson plan or continue grading a never-ending amount of college-level papers.
And that’s fine. I can handle that.
But I don’t know how much longer I have to continue defending my humanity. I don’t know how much more I have to clarify that I’m more than just a statistic, whether that’s used positively or negatively. I don’t know how much more I have to continue telling others that I am American.
Because I am.
I am American when I teach students about Hawthorne’s short stories, or brag about how much the English language has changed over its life, from old to middle to modern. I am American when I donate money to just causes or donate blood two or three times a year. I was American when I purchased my first car on July 4, 2013, and when I bought a newer model exactly three years later.
I have always been American, but it was Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that made it official, however temporary.
We both urge Congress to find a permanent solution to address DACA recipients’ situation right away. Because it would take at least seven months to fully implement a solution, Congress must not delay further. Continuing to put hundreds of thousands of hardworking young people at risk hurts not only them, but the communities to which they belong.
And according to a recent CNN poll, 83 percent of Americans — including 67 percent of Republicans — support allowing Dreamers to remain in the U.S.
Dreamers are just like any other Americans. This is our home. This is the only country we know. And this is the only country we want to make great.
I, Karen, first met Bruno when he was my student, studying English, at Liberty University, where I teach. I didn’t know then that Bruno was a Dreamer. I knew only that he was a diligent student, had the best sense of humor among the students in his class, that his writing needed improvement and that he was one of the few students to come to my office to work on improving.
What I know now — that young people such as Bruno, who offer so much to their communities and to American civil life, are in imminent danger of being removed from the only country they have ever known — troubles me greatly.
I understand as an American citizen that this is a political matter fraught with complexities, tensions and fine needles to thread. But it is as an American citizen that I urge our lawmakers and leaders to refrain from denying our nation of people like Bruno who are contributing so much and have so much more to give to our common life.
Beyond politics, these are real people, and losing them would harm our churches, community and economy.
Furthermore, as a Christian, I cannot ignore my neighbor Bruno — nor his fellow DACA recipients. Bruno is not only my former student; he is my brother in Christ, one who has served at my own church. Protecting Dreamers aligns with what the Bible tells us: All immigrants are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and deserve to be treated with dignity. Whatever policies we think best to advocate, Christians must not fail in this.
Bruno has shared with me that his experiences of being undocumented, of hearing others (including fellow Christians) speak degradingly and derisively of “illegals,” has made him wonder why he would be considered an enemy rather than a brother in the faith. He has wondered why those with whom he worshipped, prayed and broke bread would treat the foreigners in their land so differently than the Bible commands.
Bruno told me that he has learned a lot about forgiveness through his experiences growing up in America as an immigrant. Perhaps we can learn now from him and the other Dreamers.
Yupanqui is a DACA recipient and a public high school English teacher in Virginia. He is pursuing his second master’s degree at George Mason University. Prior is a professor of English at Liberty University and a research fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. She is the author of “Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me” and “Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More.” They wrote this column for The News & Advance.