I have been of the opinion that we wouldn’t see comprehensive immigration reform if there wasn’t any progress being made in the legislature by Memorial Day weekend. We are headed into the midterm campaign season, and soon the summer recess will begin. After the health care battle, few are showing the political will to jump on the immigration reform train, and I get the impression that the White House would rather not push it. A few weeks ago, President Obama said that he would like to begin working on comprehensive immigration reform without committing to any time lines. And of course, within the media and some immigration reform advocacy circles, finger pointing is being aimed at Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, who has long warned that immigration was the “third rail of American politics.”
Given the reality that we probably aren’t going to have comprehensive immigration reform, the DREAM activists have ramped up their efforts. I have blogged about the DREAM Act and the student advocates who are working tirelessly to have this opportunity to regularize their status. These youth did not have any say in how they arrived within our borders, as they were brought here as young children, attended schools and have become socialized as Americans. The DREAM activists can see the writing on the wall with comprehensive immigration reform, as they have been down this path before with the last effort big immigration reform push in 2007 that died. So instead of proceeding down the same path to nowhere, now we are beginning to see bold action by immigrant youth, including a sit-in at Senator John McCain’s office, a protest on Wilshire Boulevard by UCLA students, and protests in San Francisco outside of Senator Feinstein’s office.
I also sense that the urgency is being amplified because of the recent deaths of two DREAM activists, Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix, who were killed in an auto crash. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement, “By all accounts, Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix Perez were outstanding students and beloved leaders who touched many lives with their courage, passion and intellect. As undocumented immigrant students, they surmounted exceptional hurdles to earn their UCLA degrees, and together with others in a tight-knit community dedicated themselves to helping others in similar circumstances. In many ways, they embody the values that UCLA stands for. The campus community joins with their families and friends in mourning their deaths.” These young women have inspired their peers to go all out in their advocacy and to take their passions to the next level because of the reality that they may not live to realize those dreams of becoming legalized.
It’s time for Senators and Congressional representatives who keep delaying on taking any action with the DREAM Act to stand firm. Get behind it, co-sponsor it, or get out of the way because telling the public that you are waiting for comprehensive immigration reform is not sufficient anymore. Waiting for comprehensive immigration reform is disingenuous in the current environment, and the reality is that the undocumented youth have so much to offer.
On the Senate side, Senators Durbin and Lugar are both firmly committed to the DREAM Act. DREAM Activists are targeting senators who could be co-sponsors including Stabenow of Michigan and Brown of Massachusetts. And in the Congress, DREAM activists are putting pressure on Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, in addition to other members, to buck up and co-sponsor. Gustavo Arellano has a pretty good post describing what happened at a recent event where Sanchez had to breathe the same air as the undocumented youth who have continually asked her to co-sponsor and spearhead the effort on the house side.
I will be updating the blog with more DREAM activist actions as they unfold. The appearance of three DREAM Activists on Democracy Now! is also worth watching:
UPDATE 5/26/10: Rep. Loretta Sanchez has signed on as a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act.