Leaving the ‘perfect DREAMer’ behind? Narratives and mobilization in immigration reform

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This paper focuses on the consequences of the narrative used to support immigration reform by some immigrant activists, and especially how this narrative may negatively impact potential allies. Policies and policy proposals such as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals have been consistently championed using a specific narrative of undocumented youths which presents them as well-assimilated, driven, and US-educated. The paper is drawn from 60 in-depth interviews conducted with undocumented youths in 2013 in New York City and northern New Jersey. The paper builds on the literature relative to narratives in social movements, framing and policy-making. Findings indicate that recent campaigns continue to make extensive use of this narrative, even though it creates a divide within the undocumented community. This unintended consequence has recently led some activists to step away from the ‘perfect DREAMer’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)374-387
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Movement Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2016


  • Immigration policy
  • issue framing
  • narratives
  • political mobilization
  • social construction
  • undocumented youths


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