Activate - Documenting 'The Dreamers'
From: Activate

Documenting ‘the Dreamers’

For some it is a country of laws, for others a country of dreams, but what will it take to turn dreams into law?

The young activists of North Carolina’s Dream Team are fighting to keep undocumented young people in the US

Amie Williams is the director of The Dreamers, a film that follows a group of young people in North Carolina as they fight to stop undocumented youngsters being deported and to turn their dreams into law. Here she reflects on the making of the film and why she now believes just a few people really can make a big difference.


His mother and sister are there, looking cool and composed, but I know it must be torture for them. I am the mother of a 15-year-old son and if I was in this situation I would be a wreck. We caravan to the court building, and wait outside in the parking lot for a moment.

There is hesitation on everyone’s part, as if wanting to stop the clock. Would this be the last time we all see Erick?

I am not allowed to film inside the courtroom, but I can go and observe. It is like traffic court; there are others there in line – a woman with a baby, a teenage boy, an entire West African family.

Erick’s turn comes, and it takes less than five minutes. A quick exchange between his judge and his lawyer (who came pro bono thanks to the Dream Team movement), and he is granted two more months; a kind of deferred decision, but not the official deferral the Dream Team was hoping for.

They had wanted a suspension of the deportation order so Erick could wait out the result of the Dream Act legislation still being debated in Congress, but the judge basically gave him two more months so that letters of appeal to the national Immigration and Naturalisation (INS) offices could be read and responded to. In short, his status is still unresolved; he is still technically illegal and could be deported at any time.

Back outside amidst a small group of local reporters, Erick and the team try to keep on positive faces, but I can sense the tension, the disappointment. Viridiana Martinez, the Dream Team activist we have been following for the film, goes off on one reporter, talking about the broken economic system being linked to the broken immigration system. It is such an awful moment for me.

Spending only a brief time with these young people, I am extremely moved by their resolve, bravery and perseverance. I had an argument with my boyfriend about their approach, how naïve it seems, since there are so few of them and without a critical mass, how are they ever going to be taken seriously?

I disagreed. I do think a few powerful people can make a difference. I have witnessed this already. If not for the broader public, then for the change it triggers within themselves. I can now see Erick has a stronger focus and purpose, what he is doing helps hundreds of others like him who are hiding in the shadows. Viridiana may be bad at returning phone calls, but she is brilliant at confrontation, and turning that confrontation into action.

My favourite scene in the film is her confronting the Republican state representative in the legislature. It is so classic, when he says “we are a country of laws,” and she responds, “yeah, but we’re also a country of dreams”.

It took these kinds of people during the suffragist and civil rights movements to turn dreams into laws, and I am so proud to have been asked to produce this film.