July 2010 Archives

CA DREAM hunger strikers.jpg
As some GOP Senators work with anti-immigrant organizations to derail the DREAM Act and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus continues to hold onto the chimera of comprehensive reform this legislative session, three brave activists are in Day 11 of their hunger strike in California. The strikers are fasting to raise awareness of the DREAM Act and pressure Senator Feinstein to be a true champion of the DREAM Act. They began the fast in solidarity with the 21 DREAMers who were arrested for civil disobedience last week in Washington, D.C. The DREAM Act would provide a path to legal status for undocumented youth brought here as children who complete two years of military service or college.

The courage and dedication of DREAMers and documented allies to this cause continues to amaze me. DREAMers are putting their bodies and futures in this country on the line in front of a Congress that it seems couldn't care less.

I have to wonder whether Senator Grassley or Roy Beck of the anti-immigrant organization NumbersUSA, both of whom are behind the recent "USCIS memo" attack on the DREAM Act, have ever sacrificed as much as the DREAM fasters are right now.

Where are the anti-immigrant sit-ins and hunger strikes? Where are the anti-immigrant faith groups making the moral arguments in favor of our own Berlin Wall? Where on the anti-immigrant side are the civil rights allies, the educators, the business groups? All I see on the anti-immigrant side are old rich white men giving speeches and writing press releases, and neo-Nazi border militias in fatigues shooting at migrant workers.

Like Lt. Dan Choi told DREAMers last week in Las Vegas, one side in this debate is on the right side of history and the other is not. It is now up to elected officials and the voting public to decide: Will you side with the DREAMers or against them?

Below the fold are the bios of the three remaining hunger strikers, as well as the release for yesterday's press event.

The "DREAM Now Series: Letters to Barack Obama" is a social media campaign that launched Monday, July 19, to underscore the urgent need to pass the DREAM Act. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, S. 729, would help tens of thousands of young people, American in all but paperwork, to earn legal status, provided they graduate from U.S. high schools, have good moral character, and complete either two years of college or military service.  With broader comprehensive immigration reform stuck in partisan gridlock, the time is now for the White House and Congress to step up and pass the DREAM Act!

Today marks the completion of the second week of the DREAM Now series. I am sorry I was not able to get a letter out on Wednesday.  Too much travel and not enough sleep led me to come down with a soar throat and a fever on Tuesday.  Thankfully, I'm starting to recover, today.  If you're not getting enough of your DREAM Now fix I recommend reading Matias Ramos' post on why he stood up during Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) speech at Netroots Nation.

Thanks in part to the supporters of the DREAM Now Series,  Reid is now on board with pushing DREAM Act this year.  Most of the credit for turning Reid, of course, should go to courageous undocumented youth activists for their civil disobedience in Reid's office and making their presence known during his appearance at Netroots Nation.  While Reid still needs to be pushed, most of our efforts to get the DREAM Act enacted, this year, should now shift towards securing the last few mostly Republican Senate votes we need.  The National Council of La Raza has a list of Senators who have not yet publicly committed to voting for the DREAM Act.  If your Senator is on that list, you better start getting to work. 

[Video courtesy of Democracia Ahora]

Update: Read DREAMer Matias Ramos's account at firedoglake of why he stood up for the DREAM Act at Netroots Nation.

After last week's civil disobedience action in Washington, D.C., when 21 undocumented youth were arrested for peacefully sitting in Senate Office buildings, four DREAM Act-eligible youth stood in silence during Harry Reid's remarks at Netroots Nation Saturday to ensure he doesn't forget about the importance of passing the DREAM Act this legislative session.

Four DREAM Act-eligible undocumented activists, or DREAMers--Matias Ramos, Yahaira Carrillo, Lizbeth Mateo, and Prerna Lal--had traveled to Netroots Nation to participate in panel discussions, network, and raise awareness of the DREAM Act.

And to participate in direct actions like a mock ICE checkpoint at the entrance to a Civil Rights luncheon in which white Netroots Nation attendees were stopped and asked for ID while people of color were waved through. (How cool is an ICE checkpoint run by undocumented activists?) And then to break the action down beautifully to the video activists who filmed them.

During the "Q&A With the Speaker" segment at Netroots Nation on Saturday at the point that Senator Reid began answering a question about comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act, the four DREAMers at the conference walked up solemnly to stand in front of the stage where Reid was sitting with moderator Joan McCarter. Dressed in the graduation caps and gowns which have become the symbol of the undocumented youth movement, they stood in silence to remind Senator Reid of his commitment last week to move the DREAM Act forward once advocacy organizations signaled that comprehensive reform was no longer viable this year.

The "DREAM Now Series: Letters to Barack Obama" is a social media campaign that launched Monday, July 19, to underscore the urgent need to pass the DREAM Act. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, S. 729, would help tens of thousands of young people, American in all but paperwork, to earn legal status, provided they graduate from U.S. high schools, have good moral character, and complete either two years of college or military service.  With broader comprehensive immigration reform stuck in partisan gridlock, the time is now for the White House and Congress to step up and pass the DREAM Act!

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC  20500

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Wendy and I am a daughter, a friend, a student, and, most importantly, a dreamer. I came to this country in 1999 from Peru when I was seven years old, accompanied by my mother, father, and sister. Getting on the plane, I did not know that words like "undocumented" and "dreams" would play such a major role in my young adult life. Growing up in New York, I began to embrace the United States and the feeling of being an American; I learned to balance this country's traditions with my own without difficulty. I came to notice that the people around me, regardless of their different ethnic backgrounds and customs, were not so different from me after all.
The "DREAM Now Series: Letters to Barack Obama" is a social media campaign that launched Monday, July 19, to underscore the urgent need to pass the DREAM Act. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, S. 729, would help tens of thousands of young people, American in all but paperwork, to earn legal status, provided they graduate from U.S. high schools, have good moral character, and complete either two years of college or military service.  With broader comprehensive immigration reform stuck in partisan gridlock, the time is now for the White House and Congress to step up and pass the DREAM Act!

This post will mark the completion of the first week of the DREAM Now Letters.  This social media campaign has been an immediate success, which is in large part due to the historic actions of DREAMers this week

Major bloggers from across the net, which I will link to below, have already cross-posted both Mohammad Abdollahi's and Yahaira Carrillo's stories.  The letters even made a brief appearance on memeorandum, a news aggregator that I'm addicted to.

[Ed. Check the Dream Is Coming website for updates.]


Over 20 undocumented youth risk arrest, deportation, stage sit-in at congressional offices on Capitol Hill

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

For Immediate Release
Juan Escalante 407.602.8675
dreamactmedia@gmail.com and media@thedreamiscoming.com

Washington, D.C. Today, July 20th, over 20 undocumented immigrant youth from all over the country are risking arrest and deportation as they stage sit-ins at various congressional offices in Washington D.C. in order to urge congressional leadership to take action and pass the DREAM Act, a narrowly-tailored, bipartisan bill which would grant immigrant youth a path to citizenship. According to recent surveys by First Focus, 70% of the American public supports the DREAM Act.

They are holding sit-ins in the offices of the following elected officials: Senator Menendez, Senate majority leader Reid, Senator Feinstein, Senator McCain, and Senator Schumer.

Erika Andiola of Arizona states, "My parents sacrificed everything for me so I could pursue the American Dream. To deny my dreams is to deny the dreams of my parents. I'm doing this for them." Andiola is a graduate of Arizona State University and holds a bachelor of arts in psychology.

After two months of coast-to-coast actions, including dozens of sit-ins, civil disobedience actions, and protracted hunger strikes by both undocumented youth and community members, they have decided to bring the cause of their lives to Washington D.C. The immigrant youth participating in today's action hail from Illinois, Virginia, New York, California, Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, and Michigan.

Rosario Lopez of North Carolina states, "We have nothing to fear anymore except inaction. Our spirits grow stronger every day." Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, holds a bachelor of science in biology, and aspires to pursuing a PhD. In June, she participated in a 13-day hunger strike in front of Senator Hagan's office.

Jose Torres of Texas states, "The DREAM Act is the critical first increment in a longer process of immigration reform. We're here to fight for our dreams and the dreams of our communities." Torres is a graduate of the University of Texas. He holds a bachelor of arts in business administration and aspires to attend law school.

At least 65,000 undocumented immigrant youth graduate from high schools every year, and many of them struggle to attend institutes of higher education and the military. The DREAM Act will grant youth who traveled to the United States before the age of 16 a path to citizenship contingent on continuous presence in the country, good behavior, and the attainment of at least a two-year university degree or a two-year commitment to the armed forces.

###

The DREAM is Coming project is a collaboration between multiple organizations, including the New York State Youth Leadership Council, the Immigrant Youth Justice League, Dream Team Los Angeles, Kansas Missouri Dream Alliance, Arizona Dream Act Coalition, the Orange County Dream Team, University Leadership Initiative of Texas, Virginia DreamActivist, and DREAMActivist.org.

To read the personal stories of the DREAMers, visit www.thedreamiscoming.com/meet-the-dreamers/

These photos of the arrests of 21 undocumented activists on Tuesday in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. speak louder than words. Find more at DreamActivist1's flickr photostream. [Images: Erin Fleming, KSMODA]

Diana

Undocumented and Unafraid

Eddy and Uriel

In what I believe will go down as one of the most courageous acts in U.S. history, 21 unauthorized migrant youth were arrested on Tuesday after peaceful sit-ins to deliver one simple message to Congress: Pass the DREAM act now!  They were scolded immediately by a spokesperson from Sen. Dick Durbin's (D-IL) office:

Reached for comment following the arrests, a Durbin spokesman said, "Today's demonstrations by some DREAM Act supporters ... crossed the line from passionate advocacy to inappropriate behavior. The tide of public opinion has long been on the side of the DREAM Act -- it has broad bipartisan support in Congress, and poll after poll shows that people of all political persuasion believe in its goals. Sen. Durbin believes that we will win this fight on the merits, not through public demonstrations or publicity stunts."
Christina Wilkie - The Hill (20 July 2010)

Reading that sort of reaction you would think that unauthorized migrant youth did something violent.  But all they did was exposed the violence of the U.S. government whose reigns are almost entirely in Democrat hands, right now.  That's the only reason such a harsh and immediate statement was delivered by Durbin, a member of the Democrat leadership.  The photos of police arresting promising young students for the simple act of existence will forever be a reminder of the shame of the schizophrenic American DREAM.  This is the truth that undocumented youth were exposing on Tuesday.   

UrielTwenty-one undocumented youth were arrested in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday after staging sit-ins in the Hart Senate Office Building atrium and the offices of Senators McCain and Reid. This followed on the heels of a similar action in Senator McCain's Tucson office in May in which three undocumented leaders were arrested and turned over to ICE in what was the first civil disobedience action carried out by undocumented activists that I am aware of.

The students had come from all across the country to Washington, D.C., to participate in a three-day series of rallies and legislative visits to promote the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would provide a path to legal status for undocumented youth brought here as children who complete two years of college or military service. Currently, these youth face deportation and long-term separation from their families and friends.

The students began their sit-in shortly after an annual symbolic graduation ceremony, held at a nearby church, attended by hundreds of DREAM Act-eligible students in caps and gowns. Groups of DREAMers and supporters had driven from Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, and many other states to attend the days of action.

Shortly before 3:00 p.m., the 21 activists fanned out to the offices of Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Reid (D-NV), McCain (R-AZ), Menendez (D-NJ), and Schumer (D-NY), where they began peaceful sit-ins. After a short while, they left the offices and congregated in the atrium of the Hart Senate Building, except that the students in Senators Reid and McCain's offices stayed put.

Twelve DREAMers in the Hart Building atrium began a peaceful sit-in and were arrested by Capitol Police shortly afterwards. They were then taken to a local processing facility. Four DREAMers in Senator McCain's office and five in Senator Reid's were arrested between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. after the Senate office buildings closed. Seventeen of the DREAMers were released Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, while four were held overnight and released after appearing at their arraignments.

The activists in yesterday's action risk deportation if ICE gets involved as they go through the criminal process. Their arrests triggered an immediate and intense emotional response from the groups they had traveled with to D.C., which included siblings, parents, teachers, and friends, many of whom did not know the 21 would be arrested.



I'm in Las Vegas, today, for Netroots Nation 2010.  It's my third time in this city, my first time over 21.  Las Vegas is a plastic city, at least where all the resorts are.  Everything is designed to get you to spend money.  I had to drop $20 for wireless just to write this, and I haven't even gambled yet! 

I'm here to put on a panel entitled "'Illegal' Organizing: Lessons from the Migrant Youth Movement."  The description is as follows:


The "DREAM Now Series: Letters to Barack Obama" is a social media campaign that launched Monday, July 19, to underscore the urgent need to pass the DREAM Act. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, S. 729, would help tens of thousands of young people, American in all but paperwork, to earn legal status, provided they graduate from U.S. high schools, have good moral character, and complete either two years of college or military service.  With broader comprehensive immigration reform stuck in partisan gridlock, the time is now for the White House and Congress to step up and pass the DREAM Act!

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC  20500

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Yahaira Carrillo and I'm undocumented.  As I write this, over 20 undocumented youth are risking arrest and deportation to demand that Congress take action for the DREAM Act.  Just over two months ago, I, along with two others, became one of the first undocumented immigrants in U.S. history to do the same.  Like Mohammad Abdollahi, who wrote you a letter on Monday, I too am queer.  I risk being deported to a machista country, Mexico, where killings related to homophobia are rising.


The "DREAM Now Series: Letters to Barack Obama" is a social media campaign that launched Monday, July 19, to underscore the urgent need to pass the DREAM Act. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, S. 729, would help tens of thousands of young people, American in all but paperwork, to earn legal status, provided they graduate from U.S. high schools, have good moral character, and complete either two years of college or military service.  With broader comprehensive immigration reform stuck in partisan gridlock, the time is now for the White House and Congress to step up and pass the DREAM Act!

The "DREAM Now" letter series is inspired by a similar campaign started by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell Every Monday and Wednesday DREAM-eligible youth will publish letters to the President, and each Friday there will be a DREAM wrap-up.  If you're interested in getting involved or posting these stories on your site, please email Kyle de Beausset at kyle at citizenorange dot com.

President Barack H. Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest

Washington, DC  20500

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Mohammad Abdollahi and I am an undocumented immigrant.  Two months ago I made history.   


Despite Obama's nativist rhetoric, and the failure of the Obama administration's to include Latino and/or pro-migrant bloggers in the following roundtable, I was happy to have come across this from Cecilia Muñoz, the White House's Director of Intergovernmental Affairs:



Jesse Lee: And we've got a bit of a graffiti artist in the chat asking over and over again, why not the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill?

Cecilia Muñoz: So the DREAM Act, which I described before, is terribly important.  The President absolutely supports it.  And if Congress, if our allies in Congress decide to move forward on the DREAM Act, we will be - we will happily support it.  The President has been a supporter really for much of his career. 

So that, if it moves forward, that progress is progress, it has the same 60-vote threshold as anything else that moves in the United States Senate, and that's the challenge.  In order to pass the DREAM Act or a comprehensive reform or anything else, we're going to need to get the 60 votes, and some of those votes are going to have to be from Republicans.  And so in order to accomplish any piece of this debate, we're going to need that support. 
White House (1 July 2010)
The Obama administration certainly hasn't spent any political capital on getting the DREAM Act passed, but at least they aren't publicly blocking it from happening.


During the 2008 Presidential campaign Barack Obama promised us he would make comprehensive immigration reform a "top priority" in his first year as President:

Well, I don't know about you, but I think it's time for a President who won't walk away from something as important as comprehensive reform when it becomes politically unpopular.  And that's the commitment I'm making to you.  I marched with you in the streets of Chicago.  I fought with you in the Senate for comprehensive immigration reform.  And I will make it a top priority in my first year as President.  Not just because we need to secure our borders and get control of who comes into our country.  And not just because we have to crack down on employers abusing undocumented immigrants.  But because we have to finally bring those 12 million people out of the shadows. 
Barack Obama - Citizen Orange (13 July 2008)
After hearing promises like that, pro-migrant voters, specifically Latino voters, turned out for Obama in record numbers and helped get him elected. 

It's been two years since Obama made those promises to us.  Not only has policy failed to change under the Obama administration, but the war on migrants has actually gotten worse.  Barack Obama promised to make immigration a "top priority" in his first year as President.  Now, a year and a half into his Presidency, all we have is a speech.

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