VPR Commentary : My Mom Could Have Been a Dreamer

Click link below text to listen.

My Mom, if she’d been born in a different era, might have been a candidate for the DACA program. A Dreamer. She was born of German parents in Saskatchewan in 1916. Sometime around 1920 the family crossed the border and headed east. I don’t believe they had work permits or visas. They just came to America to have a better life.

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My Mom didn’t speak English until she started first grade in Massachusetts. But she learned fast, did well, and was valedictorian of her high school. She went to college and got a degree in home economics.

At some point everyone in the family - Grampy, Grandmother, Uncle Ralph and my mom - applied for and was granted citizenship. My Grampy was very proud to be an American and flew the flag on every patriotic holiday. He worked hard, bought a house, paid his taxes and voted every chance he had.

Elfrieda Leant, my mom, with me, her grandson Josh Yunger, and great-grandson George in 1989 when she was 73.

I wonder what would life be like for these people if they’d arrived in 1990, undocumented, instead of 1920. Perhaps they’d have been rounded up and interrogated. Or maybe they’d have been put in a detention center. Grampy spoke at least 5 languages, but his English wasn’t perfect and he had an accent. He might have been deported.

I suppose my mother, who worked for many years as a social worker, might have been deprived of that career because her parents brought her across the border without the appropriate papers. And Uncle Ralph, who served in the Coast Guard, might have been deported, too.

I’m deeply disturbed about the current administration’s plans for the DACA program. President Trump promised to do away with DACA during his campaign. Now he’s said Congress has just 6 months to decide what to do. But given the atmosphere in Congress, it’s uncertain if anything will be done.

An old friend of mine has a great saying: “A promise made is a debt unpaid.” The dreamers who signed up for DACA were given promises. I strongly feel we must honor those promises.

Our country is big enough and rich enough to absorb the Dreamers. They’ve already proven they’re exceptional young people who are honest, hard-working and smart. They’re not terrorists or cheats asking for a hand-out. They just want what my mother and her family were given when they appeared in America: a chance.

 Listen to this VPR commentary by clicking here. 

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