November 9, 2015
Who are the Dreamers? They are people with no documents to make their residency in this country legal, a country they call their own. They are people who are denied access to important benefits. They are people who fear being deported every day to a country they barely know.
Recently, immigration journalist Eileen Truax came to CSUN to talk about these so-called Dreamers, the DREAM Act, and why America needs to change its approach to immigration.
“This is about human rights and social justice. And we have to start talking about immigration and seeing immigration as a human rights and social justice issue, not economic, not legal, not work, and not education,” said Truax, who has degrees in social communication and politics.
Truax has spent tremendous amount of time in different communities and has learned that changing U.S. immigration policies is about more than just granting people certain rights.
“It’s not just about having access to certain things, it’s about the way we see people in this country. It’s about the way we see immigrants in this country. It’s about the way we see ourselves in this community,” said Truax, who used to work for the Mexican consulate.
“Dreamers: An Immigrant Generation’s Fight for Their American Dream” is Truax’s first book. The book is a result of almost a decade covering immigration in Los Angeles. It is an attempt to move away from the statistical way of reporting on immigration to a more humanistic way about Dreamers’ own personal experiences, written from their perspective.
“When we put the stories in front of the numbers we can start relating to them,” said Truax, who first published the book in Mexico two years ago and earlier this year in the U.S.
As Truax introduced herself, she explained the significance of CSUN to her book.
“Many of those experiences (from the book) started or took place here at CSUN,” said Truax. “This University, this campus, was the first place where I had a real personal approach with students, where I actually started learning about the challenges that Dreamers have in their daily lives.”
CSUN is not just important to the book but also to Truax herself, who was clearly excited to be back at CSUN on Nov. 4.
“I come here once or twice a year and that makes me very happy,” said Truax. “To come to CSUN is always kind of coming home.”
Born in Mexico City, Truax moved to Los Angeles in 2004 to explore her options.
“Like many people who come to this country, I was coming for one year or two, just to see what happens,” said Truax.
Almost 12 years later, she still lives in the U.S. and has no intention of moving back. Not only does she like it here, but she wants to stay because there are stories that need to be told.
“I found a real treasure of stories to be told in this country, in this city and in this community,” said Truax, who is also a board member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
Shortly after Truax came to the United States, she started working for La Opinión, the largest Spanish-language daily newspaper in the country. For seven years, she covered immigration issues, Mexican immigrant communities as well as other Central American immigrant communities for the publication.
One of the first things she learned working with these communities was how familiar the American public is about immigration but that they don’t ask any questions about it.
“We all know that people who don’t have a social security number shouldn’t be working, but we know they work. We know that people who lack certain documents cannot get a driver’s license, but they drive. We know it, we accept it and we don’t ask much,” said Truax.
Although young dreamers are given an education, they are left to themselves after high school, which marks the beginning of the real struggle.
“The moment when you graduate from high school you want to go to college, or you want to start working, or you want to buy a car, or you want to travel. And they realize, in that moment, that they can’t, and they can’t, and they can’t, and they can’t, because they don’t have a document,” said Truax.
As the presentation progressed, it became clear that gaining access to certain benefits are just one element to a larger issue. Raising awareness, telling the personal stories, is the beginning. Getting these stories, however, is not always an easy task. A young woman in the crowd expressed the difficulties she has faced getting some of these stories.
“My advice at this point would be (that) you have to start networking to the community you want to report about. Not only because you have a deadline or you have a specific topic to report. But because you want to know them,” said Truax. “You cannot force people to share their most vulnerable part of themselves just in 10 minutes because you have a deadline.”
During the presentation, Truax showed a lot of passion and empathy for Dreamers in this country and raised a valid question towards the end.
“These young people love the United States, they want to be part of the United States, they want to give back to the United States,” said Truax. “To love a country where people are saying to you, ‘Go back, we don’t want you here’ and you still want to fight in their armies, study in their colleges, become a doctor, become a lawyer, to give back to that community. I ask you: Is there anything more American than that?”
— Trine Bay Larsen, graduate student