The documentary Waking Dreamers follows the story of various individuals who were able to live in the United States because of their DACA status, including Dilan in Richmond, California, Rossy in Rio Grande, Texas, John and James in Southern California, Steve Li in San Francisco, and Marisol in Southern Arizona. The documentary opens with Dilan, who is a grade school teacher in Richmond, upon hearing that Trump will suspend DACA in 2017. Dilan hadn’t been to his place of birth, Mexico, since he was two. Next, Rossy is introduced, who desires to get her PhD in linguistics. Her mother always told her education wasn’t an option, but rather a requirement in their family. Her family lives 69 miles from the border with a major checkpoint that Rossy’s mother could not cross as she was not registered in the DACA program nor a naturalized citizen. Thankfully, Rossy was accepted in the University of Houston PhD program for linguistics; at this point Rossy had been a registered DACA recipient for 13 years. If she did not have her legal documents, she would have only been able to take her classes via teleconference, but she avoided this obstacle through DACA. If DACA is suspended, Rossy will not finish her degree, as she will be deported by ICE.
Next, the documentary introduces John and James, two identical twins born in the Philippines. They left their nation state with their parents because of economic strife. John and James tried to enlist in the Marines, because their mother had told them for years that they should be extremely grateful to America for providing them with so many opportunities. At the time, they did not know they were undocumented, and when the young men found out, they were devastated; they then discovered the program called MAVNI that allowed individuals to join the military and then apply for naturalization. Both of the brothers waited for two years to be deployed or even complete Basic Training; they needed their DACA to remain current while in Basic Training to continue on into the military. Next, the documentary introduced Steve, a man of Chinese descent who was born in Peru; he came to America at ten years old because of economic turmoil as well. As a child, Steve endured an ICE raid of his home in which his parents were deported to China and he was held in a juvenile detention center. Steve’s friends and community rallied around him in support and managed to free him, at which point he applied for DACA two years later.
Lastly, the documentary introduced Marisol, a woman who lived near the Mexican border in Southern Arizona. She came to America at age seven when her mother fled an abusive husband in Mexico; she came to Arizona with her six siblings. Now, Marisol had two children of her own who were US citizens by way of birthplace. She lived in an extremely small town that did not even have a Walmart, but had a huge border patrol station. When Marisol was younger, ICE deported her parents. Marisol was released from custody, but did not obtain DACA until 6 years later. She managed to find a good job in a nearby elementary school through which she supported her children.
The story then returned to Dilan, explaining how when Dilan was 10, his dad went back to Mexico to visit his dying mother, but was caught and deported. Dilan was later expelled from school for punching his principal in the face, but managed to restructure his life and make better choices, leading him to becoming a teacher. Dilan went to visit his father in Mexico legally through the DACA program for two weeks; he was still nervous he would not be allowed back in the country. After being humbled by his father and the living conditions in Mexico, Dilan successfully returned to San Francisco where his sister and nieces and nephews waited for him.
As for Rossy, she was married to a man named Gerry, a United States citizen. While working on her PhD, she was simultaneously applying for a green card, which she obtained a year and a half after the initial application through her husband. Rossy recognizes the talent her mom possesses, but because she is illegal, she cannot make more than minimum wage in the US. Rossy eventually obtains her PhD in linguistics, officially becoming a doctor, and is able to remain in the US through an extended DACA. As for John and James, their story makes the news, and John is first sent away to Basic Training. James was happy for him, because he knew if John could do it, so could he. Shortly after, James joined him in the Basic Training; both men were applying to become US citizens though the military as well.
As for Steve, he comments that he misses his family greatly and can only talk to them on the phone once a month. He then goes to Washington DC to advocate to policymakers for the extension of DACA by sharing his own personal experience; he himself represents positive results of activism, as his own community managed to free him from juvenile detention and deportation and help him apply for DACA. Steve was eventually able to renew his DACA for two years, and remained in the country. As for Marisol, her children are US citizens, but she is worried that if DACA ends, how will she provide for them? Where will they get insurance? As of now, she still remains in Southern Arizona, but is worried because of increased border traffic surrounding her area. Dilan continues to teach middle school while simultaneously studying for the LSATS; he hopes to attend Harvard law, work in a private practice, run for Mayor of Richmond, become a representative, and then run for Senate.