Imagine living in fear and uncertainty for the future, knowing that at any time you could be deported from your home and sent to a country you don’t remember.
The documentary “Dream With Me” follows one of many “Dreamers” who took advantage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
A screening of “Dream With Me,” which included a Q&A session, was held on Feb. 21 at the Alamo Drafthouse in Lubbock.
“Dream With Me” was directed by Jonathan Seaborn, a former South Plains College student, and was produced by KTTZ-TV in part with the Texas Tech University College of Arts and Sciences. The screening was offered in partnership with the Scholarly Film Society, Define American – Texas Tech Chapter and the Texas Tech Immigration Law Association.
Seaborn graduated from South Plains College with an Associate of Arts degree in journalism, before studying philosophy at Texas Tech University, which he did not finish pursuing. Seaborn started to do freelance work before finishing Texas Tech and continued working instead. But he is now resuming his educational pursuits online through Tech.
“Some of my initial passions was in journalism,” Seaborn explained. “I was interested in journalism and photojournalism. And I always also had an itch that while growing up, I liked to make movies with my friends and stuff like that. I liked video cameras, but didn’t really put two and two together off the bat.”
Seaborn said that he didn’t have an interest in broadcast journalism, and he still doesn’t have an interest in broadcast news as far as journalism is concerned. He said he does have an interest in longform visual storytelling, which he does through video.
“My uncle was an editor at the Austin American Statesman for a long time, which is where my interest in print journalism started,” Seaborn recalled. “When I was finishing up school, he was still working at the Statesman, and he was like. ‘Don’t go into the paper. Because, it’s hard times right now, unfortunately.’ That’s when I was looking for ways to meld my interest in long-form journalism, but my complete lack of interest in broadcast television news. I’ve always loved our community, but the idea of like, ‘Oh, I can do these things together in this kind of format,’ and that’s where it started.”
Seaborn’s movie follows Saba Nafees, a DACA recipient, through her unsure immigration status and the challenges she and her family faced.
The movie started to form when Seaborn was planning to cover a story about Tim Cole for KTXT-TV in Lubbock.
“They were going to give Tim Cole the degree postmortem,” Seaborn explained. “I worked for the local PBS station where you’re going to do a story on that. And at the time, Saba was in the SGA, and she had written the piece of legislation within the Student Government to give Tim Cole the degree. So I reached out to her to do an interview then, and she was obviously fascinating at the moment. I knew that she is second-generation immigrant. I didn’t know that she was undocumented, but I knew that her parents had immigrated. And I knew that she was Muslim.”
Seaborn said when the 2016 election was ramping up, his initial thought at the time was that there was a lot of talk about the Muslim ban. He explained that’s when he got the idea to possibly profile second-generation Muslim students, to put a face to the issue.
“Not to push an idea or policy one way or the other,” Seaborn said. “But these people are being talked about like a faceless entity at that point. So let’s maybe interview a couple of students and get a profile on them. And then I talked to a few, and then I talked to Saba.”
Seaborn said that he had known Daniel Clayton, Nafees’ husband, for awhile, but didn’t know that they were married. While talking to Daniel and Saba, they told him the story of their marriage.
“Their marriage was complicated by the fact that she had DACA, and that she was undocumented,” explained Seaborn, “but she was OK because she had DACA, and they were OK at the moment while they’re trying to figure out their marriage stuff. After talking to them for a little bit, it became clear instantly that their story is kind of complicated. The legal love story was more interesting than, like just sort of more profiles.”
Seaborn decided to switched to just focusing on the couple and spent a little more than two years with them as they went through waiting for their marriage interview process.
Nafees came to Tech in 2011 and began pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. She is currently pursuing her PhD through the university.
“I was doing research, and I was doing a lot of different activities across campus,” the 25-year-old said. “And the first year of college was really tough, because DACA hadn’t come about yet. But after it came about through the work permit, I was able to get paid for the work I did, and then be able to drive and things like that. So it really, really completely changed my life.”
Nafees took advantage of the DACA program in 2012, an Obama era program which provided some temporary protections to undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children. In 2017, the Trump administration made the decision to rescind DACA.
Nafees arrived in the United States in 2004. Her family decided to move in order to see her grandparents. Her grandparents sponsored her family for a green card visitor visa. When her grandparents passed away, her parents were faced with a choice, to live in their home in the country they had been living in or go back to Pakistan.
Nafees’ parents decided to stay in America so their children could be able to continue in school. Her dad said in the film that he made the right decision to stay and is proud of all that his daughter has accomplished, adding that, “This is the dream.”
Seaborn said that he didn’t want the documentary to be about policies and political speak.
“It’s hard to avoid politics in general, but I didn’t want it to be an overtly political film,” Seaborn explained. “I wanted it to be, here’s this person and their spouse that are dealing with this issue that is complicated by this complicated system. I wanted it to kind of be more just like the profile of this couple to put a face to the issue. You can walk away having the movie move you one way or not, but I hope you’d have a better understanding of the humanitarian impact on people, and that it’s a complicated issue. It’s not so cut and dry.”
While Nafees and her family were living undocumented in America, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency or ICE, was called and a deportation case was opened on her parents, sisters and herself.
Nafees and Clayton were married in May of 2016 and had filled out all immigration paperwork for their marriage. They waited more than a year to hear about their immigration interview, just to be told they would be contacted in 60 days and still waited more than nine months. They worried that without DACA, Nafees could be deported and break their family apart.
When DACA did end in 2018, Nafees still had a work permit, so she was still safe without her green card for her marriage. But with a case still open for her deportation, their paperwork for the marriage couldn’t move forward.
Nafees agreed to share her story because she feels that immigration is an important subject in the country that needs to be discussed.
“Our nation is a nation of immigrants, and it’s really important to remember those groups,” said Nafees. “So, in general, I’m a passionate American, and I want to give back to my country. And as I started getting more involved with civic engagement, and also just helping others, I wanted to also speak out for something that was really personal and about our families and about how these things impact us. So I’ve just been kind of an advocate and involved with immigrants, immigrant rights movement organizations and other groups around the country. And just try to advocate as much as I can go.”
Nafees has travelled to Washington, D.C. and various other cities around the country discussing immigration topics. Nafees also won three Grammy Awards in February in part with other dreamers for the “American Dreamers: Voices Of Hope, Music Of Freedom” album.
“I will probably never stop advocating and speaking out about these issues and being there for everybody who’s going through it right now,” Nafees said. “Because I just think that we need to do a lot in terms of educating others. And even though I kind of am getting through my problems, I never can stop thinking about others. Because I know what it’s like, and others helped me a lot. Many amazing young leaders came before me who fought for things like DACA, and now we have those things. I don’t want to forget that.”
Nafees said she hopes that, as a country, things can improve and find solutions for policy problems facing immigration.
“I hope that families don’t keep being torn apart,” Nafees said, “and I hope that we can find a Dream Act solution, or a solution like the Dream Act, because we really desperately need that. We also need a solution for the 11 million undocumented Americans around the country that, including my parents, lived here for a great number of years. So we never were able to pass the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill, the CIR. It would be amazing if we could do something like that now.”
Seaborn said he enjoyed making this film and wanted to put a face to the people being so often discussed in the news and around the country.
“It’s hard, as it was nice to really get to know Saba and Daniel as much as I did over the period of time,” Seaborn said. “But then it also gets hard to make sure you keep yourself separated the more you get to know them. I’m friendly with them, and I consider them friends. But you have to keep as true with any form of journalism. You have to make sure there’s at least that barrier that my affection for them isn’t going to affect my ability to honestly tell their story. But I do appreciate now that the film is done, I can like relax a little more and just be friends with them.”