Academy Award-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim is challenging college students to join a new campaign and support immigration reform allowing an earned pathway to citizenship based on the DREAM Act.
Several Boston University students said they support the DREAM Act’s proposed changes to immigration policy, which would allow undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. at a young age to earn citizenship by attending college or enrolling in the military.
“I simply don’t understand why anyone would be opposed to the passage,” said Stephanie Pimental, a second-year School of Law student and president of BU’s Immigrant Law and Policy Society. “These [undocumented] kids often do not even know they don’t hold status until they apply to college or try and get a job.”
Guggenheim, known for documentaries such as “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Waiting for Superman,” hosted a conference call Tuesday to encourage students to sign a petition supporting immigration reform based on the DREAM Act in a campaign titled The Dream is Now.
Guggenheim said his personal experiences have shaped his opinions on the need for immigration reform.
“My father was also a filmmaker and I remember him making a documentary about the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island,” he said during the call. “He taught me that immigration is what makes America great. Years later I lived in Los Angeles and everyone I met was impacted by this broken legislation.”
The Dream is Now campaign is a partnership between Guggenheim and the Emerson Collective which aims to provide supporters of immigration reform, documented and undocumented, with an online platform to voice their support, Guggenheim said.
Guggenheim said he intends to produce a 30-minute documentary based on videos and material submitted by students showing their personal stories and why they believe the DREAM Act is necessary.
The act, proposed by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois would allow qualified undocumented youth to attempt to obtain citizenship after completing two years of either college or military service, according to the official DREAM Act website.
In 2010, the act failed to pass through the Senate, and since its failure, Congress has updated and revised the proposed legislation.
Ruben Canedo, The Dream is Now college outreach director, said students are crucial to the mission of the campaign.
“We all clearly understand that college students will be the next generation of leadership,” Canedo said. “We also understand the unbelievable transformative impact that college students have through their personal networks and social media outlets to help spread this passion and support to improve the immigration system and do justice to their peers.”
Without the passage of the DREAM Act, these students cannot receive financial aid from schools or secure a stable job, despite having grown up in the U.S., Canedo said.
“Undocumented students are hungry to contribute to their communities,” Canedo said. “These are Americans from various backgrounds who can instantly alleviate the current needs of our health care system, judicial system, education system and much more.”
The economic impact of granting these students citizenship amounts to an estimated $148 billion, according to the campaign’s website.
“With ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ we saw real change happen,” Guggenheim said. “A documentary can do a lot, but it takes people to join in.”
Several BU students said the campaign’s efforts are admirable and the passage of the DREAM Act is important for U.S. citizens and students.
David Torres, a College of Communication junior, said he is hopeful the documentary will have a positive impact on the BU community.
“If anything, the film can help BU students realize the world is more than just the suburbs or the small commonwealth bubble,” he said. “Hopefully this film will take the invisible DREAM Act students and give them a light so they may share their stories and connect with people to bring about some kind of change.”
Marina Shub, a postgraduate School of Law student who said she is familiar with Guggenheim’s work, said she was glad he is working on the campaign, but is not convinced it will bring about significant change.
“It is a very important issue that is now ripe for discussion and has a clear solution,” Shub said. “With that said, I don’t think the film will impact the issue itself or get government attention. The DREAM Act was introduced 12 yeas ago, and Congress still has yet to agree.”