Professor Michelson’s Book Looks at Immigration Policies and Undocumented Latino Youth

September 22, 2014:

Melissa R. Michelson, Professor of Political Science at Menlo College and a nationally recognized expert on Latino Politics has published a new book: Living the Dream, New Immigration Policies and the Lives of Undocumented Latino Youth. She wrote Living the Dream with Maria Chávez, Associate Professor of Political Science at Pacific Lutheran University and Jessica L. Lavariega Monforti, Associate Professor and Associate Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas-Pan American. Michelson’s previous published work includes the award-winning book Mobilizing Inclusion (2012), describing her research on how to increase voter turnout in minority communities.

In Living the Dream, the authors relay the real-life stories of 101 undocumented Latino youth currently living in the United States, in four different states. While many undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are adults who made conscious decisions to live here without legal documentation, others were children who were brought to America by their families and have lived in the U.S. for the majority of their lives. These youth are often nicknamed DREAMers after the DREAM Act (The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act), a measure first proposed in 2001 to regularize the status of these young people. The DREAMers label is evocative of the familiar concept of The American Dream, and the idea that children brought to this country by their parents should have the opportunity to pursue that dream. Instead, DREAMers live on the margins of society, in limbo, waiting to see if they will be allowed to stay and pursue their dreams.

Jose (a pseudonym), one of the DREAMers, notes in the book, “We don’t know what is gonna happen. You know, we don’t have that—we’re living in the moment, we’re living day-by-day. You know, we may get deported next year, we may get deported in five years. So how can you make a plan or how can you plan your life in the next ten years if you don’t know where you are going to be.”

In July 2012, President Barack Obama issued an executive action, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which granted some DREAMers two-year deferrals of any deportation action as well as work permits. Using interviews conducted just after that announcement, this book tells DREAMers’ stories and discusses how immigration law, including DACA, is shaping the lives and political attitudes and behaviors of these young Latinos. The book provides a historical and economic argument for the passage of the DREAM Act, and for creating just, fair, and inclusive immigration policies.