Ireri and her sister Tania are co-founders of Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL) whose members hosted the first ever Coming Out of the Shadows event three years ago. I talked to their mother Rosi, and to Ireri to learn more about this blame language and their own experiences.
Have you seen a difference recently in how young people that advocate for the DREAM Act talk about their parents? Is it correct to say there’s been a shift from blaming parents to praising them?
Rosi: The majority of parents I’ve talked to fully support the struggle their kids have taken on. This is a contextual frame that the Democratic Party used, particularly to pass the Dream Act. I always heard young people say, “it’s not our parents’ fault, we love our parents.” I think the democrats use it to create an argument, but I never heard any of the young people outside of the official discourse say, “we blame our parents.” We brought them so that they would have a better future. That better future has to do with the education they are fighting for.
There isn’t a single parent that I talked to that was not in favor of the DREAM act. We continue to believe in making our dream a reality; as parents our dream is for our kids to have a better future. I say that not just personally, but because I talked to many parents whose kids have participated in actions and in this fight. This didn’t divide us as a family or community, we love each other and support one another.
Ireri: I agree with my mom. Since we’ve made our status known publicly, I don’t think I ever heard any of my friends in the struggle blame their parents. This is language that the Democratic Party has used. What I do think happened is that we did not talk much about our parents. I remember having a conversation about keeping talk of our parents out of the spotlight because we wanted to protect them.
When we felt that politicians were attacking our parents, then we started making a conscious effort to say we don’t blame our parents. We’re never going to do that, and we’ve never done it because we love them very much and we understand the reasons why we had to come to the United States. We know they had to make difficult decisions for us to come here. What you’re probably hearing more of is that more young people are saying, it’s not our parents’ fault, and in the past we didn’t say it, but I also don’t recall anyone saying that it was their parent’s fault they were here. There’s a distinction to be made. We are making that distinction to defend the love we have for our parents.