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Students March to support DREAM Act

Posted July 18th, 2010 in Uncategorized by steve


“In January Miami residents and college students Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco, Carlos Roa and Juan Rodriguez embarked on a 1,500-mile walk from Miami to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of the plight of children of undocumented immigrants such as themselves…”

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Hunger strikers’ American dreams

Posted July 14th, 2010 in Uncategorized by steve

From The Guardian (UK)

I asked Sonia, a student from Harlem who was born in Ecuador, how it is that she looked so energetic and, for all appearances, normal, given that it was her 10th day without eating. She laughed a little, and this is what she had to say:

“To be honest I’m losing my voice, and I feel like fainting. But I’m representing millions of undocumented students. That’s what gives me energy.” Sonia, 20, studies at Hunter College in midtown Manhattan, where she double majors in women and gender studies, with a minor in political science. “And a little makeup,” she added with a smile.

On a busy stretch of 3rd Avenue outside New York senator Charles Schumer’s Manhattan office on 10 June, a hundred or so supporters were crowded around the small group of young people who had gone without food for 10 days and nine nights to call attention to the plight of undocumented students in the US. Every year 65,000-70,000 undocumented students graduate from US high schools, according to the New York State Youth Leadership Council, and without a valid social security number or residency permit, they find themselves ineligible for financial aid, in-state tuition at public universities, and legal employment.

“We’re tired of living in fear, we can only be pushed to the wall for so long,” José Luis Zacatelco tells me, a Queens resident who studies mental health at Laguardia Community College. “I just turned 30 so I’m not doing this for myself, I’m doing it for all of these young people who want to be doctors, lawyers, engineers. We’ve already invested in their K-12 education, why are we stopping them from pursuing their dreams, studying to become professionals?”

The hunger strikers camped out on Schumer’s doorstep this week because he’s the Senate co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, a bill that would create a pathway to residency and citizenship for immigrant youth who arrived here as children – but these students say the bill isn’t moving fast enough. They want it introduced as a standalone bill immediately, and not rolled into a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which Schumer prefers, that could go either way during this feisty election year.

This action and others like it unfolding across the country appear to mark a new impatience in an immigrant rights movement that had its coming out day in March of 2006. Maybe it’s the economic crash that has made life more precarious for all of us, especially those without access to education, or the fact that deportations have risen under the Obama administration. But a major tipping point appears to have been reached with the recent controversial anti-immigrant bill passed in Arizona, which has become a flashpoint for debate on the issue, touching off boycotts, and even driving many Latino immigrants from the state.

An immigrant student is detainedAn immigrant student is removed from Charles Schumer’s office following a sit-in. Photograph: Alex RiveraWhatever it can be attributed to, something has shifted both in the tactics that immigrant rights activists are now using on a regular basis, and in the language they’re employing to frame their demands. And there’s an increasing resemblance to the language of enfranchisement that the American civil rights movement perfected in the 1960s, and the unceasing nonviolent confrontational tactics that were employed to push for landmark legislation like the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Although no arrests were reported at the Manhattan action on Thursday, a few dozen miles east three immigrant student activists from the same group staged a sit-in at Schumer’s Long Island office, accompanied by Alex Rivera, an award-winning documentary filmmaker. They were removed by agents from the Federal Protective Service, detained for a short while and eventually released without charge.

“For a long time in my life it’s been fear and shame, afraid of being deported, and ashamed of being undocumented,” Marco Saavedra tells me, a 20-year-old student of sociology at Kenyon College who was born in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Marco didn’t make it to day 10 – he halted his fast on the eighth day with approval by all of the other hunger strikers. He had to start a summer internship at the New York City department of education, and his fellow strikers agreed it would defeat the purpose to show up on his first day of work near starvation.

“Getting involved in this youth movement, it’s been like coming out of a depression.”

Nearby a man with a bullhorn rallies the crowd, chanting, “Up with the Dream Act” and “Schumer, Schumer, shame on you!” Passing cars honked their horns, and somebody read aloud a letter of support signed by a number of local chapters of SEIU, one of the country’s biggest unions. Another local union had provided the hunger strikers with a small grant as well as another key amenity for an extended summer slumber party on the streets of midtown – port-a-potties equipped with fresh water to wash hands and faces with.

Although the hunger strikers had demanded a meeting with Schumer it seems the senator was still in Washington and wouldn’t be showing up any time soon. I left a few messages with his office, but didn’t hear anything back. Outside I asked Yessica Martinez, a 17-year-old high school student from Queens what brought her out in support of the hunger strikers, and she said it’s pretty simple.

“It’s our country. We have American dreams too.

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Young Illegal Immigrants Get a Chance to Learn but Not Earn

Posted July 12th, 2010 in Uncategorized by steve

(From the Arizona Daily Star)

Juan’s room shows a life shaped by American education. It’s painted in the colors of Dallas’ Thomas Jefferson High School, his new alma mater. Trophies and medals brag for him: top 10 percent of his class, captain of two sports teams, a district first-place finisher in track, an almost perfect SAT score, the only football player in band. He’s a poster child of American schooling, with wishes to enter the military or teach English.

Neither option is open to Juan, who has grown up in the country illegally. Now he must realign his goals to fit his immigration status.

Thousands of high school graduates like Juan are discovering the dichotomy between a federal law that ensures their education and one that prevents them from using it.

“I never saw myself as an immigrant,” said Juan, a toddler when his family brought him from Mexico. Like the other students in this story, he is being identified only by his first name.

“I’ve been a Dallas boy forever. So it’s a bad feeling, knowing 17 years of study with regular kids — doing better than them — and I can’t even go out and find a job.” Federal law bans public schools from denying admission to illegal immigrants. Between 50,000 and 70,000 of them graduate each year from American high schools. No such law exists for public universities, though 10 states including Texas provide some form of in-state tuition aid to illegal immigrants.

Juan will attend the University of Texas at San Antonio. But in sharp irony to the country’s education ethos, a degree will not boost his career. Juan can’t gain legal employment without a Social Security number, meaning he can return to Mexico with his acquired skills or do the same work as his relatives here. He has decided to major in business administration because he knows a bit about mechanics from his uncle and won’t need to show papers to open a shop.

“Opportunity comes for people who work hard for it,” said the 18-year-old, echoing the mantra he learned in school. “Something might happen to reward me.”

Their legal paradox has become a central issue for illegal immigrant students, said Roberto Gonzales, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Washington who studies the demographic.

“Our laws treat children and adults differently, but they don’t allow for the life course of children becoming adults,” he said. “It produces a jarring effect right around junior or senior year when that comes into play, and they realize the experiences they have had up until then are not going to prepare them to move forward as adults.” Because of this, he said, only 5 percent to 10 percent of illegal immigrant high school students continue their educations. “From a policy standpoint, from a governmental standpoint, it’s a real waste of our talent. It’s a loss of investment we make in young people, who have skills and experience. The best they can hope for is to get into some graduate program and stall for time while they wait for legislation to pass.”

That proposed legislation is the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act, a previously defeated bill that would create a path to citizenship for students. Immigration experts say it may have a greater chance of passing this year than a comprehensive immigration package. More than 100 members of the U.S. House have agreed to support the measure.

But that doesn’t make it likely. The shadow of Arizona’s new law cracking down on illegal immigrants has stretched to Texas. A current lawsuit by the Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas challenges the in-state tuition law. Accounts of detained Texan college students — from attendees of Harvard University to the University of Texas at Arlington — are increasingly common.

Despite initial discussion to allow undocumented students into the military, the state Republican Party opted to oppose amnesty at its convention in June.

“Everyone is quick to blame the enforcement of the law,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “Nobody wants to attribute blame to parents who made a conscious decision to violate the law.” Others sacrifice for it, he said. “When you admit a kid to the University of Texas who is in the country illegally, by definition you are excluding somebody else. That kid also worked hard and his or her family didn’t break any law.”

Texas awarded about $33.6 million in state and institutional financial aid to these students between fall 2004 and summer 2008, which also includes those who are not legal permanent residents or U.S. citizens.

U.S. citizens “are having trouble making ends meet and can’t pay tuition for their own kids,” said David Rogers, the coalition’s attorney for the lawsuit, who believes the fragile economy and Arizona backlash will spawn greater restrictions for illegal immigrants.

David, another illegal immigrant, leaves the political wars of immigration reform to others. He tries not to think about it. He’d rather talk about fighting in the Army.

Half-deflated graduation balloons hang in a two-room apartment the 17-year-old shares with his extended family. If he had his own room, he said, he would display his ROTC medals — best sharpshooter, battalion leader, dedicated cadet. The certificate he keeps in a protective folder says he exemplifies “the high ideals and principles which motivated and sustained our patriot ancestors.” David realized he didn’t belong in that category when he tried to join the military.

“I can’t explain it,” he said. “You just go there and are brave enough to fight for the freedom of the United States. I would be fighting for my country.”

Instead, he will attend Brookhaven College in the fall and redirect dreams toward a career in Christian rap.

Thomas Jefferson High principal Eddie Conger sees more students like David every year, Texan dreamers suddenly aware they will relive their parents’ lives.

“Yes, we need to secure our borders,” he said. “But you’ve got to look at these kids that we have educated and allow them in because it’s in the best interest of our country.”

Viriviana, an undocumented student who attended Dallas’ Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, just graduated with honors from the University of Texas at Austin. She’ll start a master’s degree in social work at Columbia University this fall. Then she’ll wait.

“It feels like my status is my worst enemy,” she said. “It’s preventing me from doing what I was taught to do.”

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New poll shows Americans favor DREAM Act

Posted June 30th, 2010 in Uncategorized by steve — As much as the proponents of rounding up undocumented immigrants and sending them back across the border hate it, the majority of Americans have made it a point to publicly support one type of undocumented immigrant — the children.

We have seen that whenever a promising young student, who happens to be undocumented, is taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a good number of Americans decry the possible deportation of that student.

Time and time again, I’ve seen readers of Latina Lista, who are vocal critics that any sympathy or empathy be shown to undocumented immigrants, soften their stance when these young students are threatened.

Now, a new national bipartisan poll bears out those observations.

According to the poll commissioned by First Focus, a bipartisan child advocacy organization, 70 percent of Americans favor the DREAM Act.

That’s a 12 percent increase compared to a poll taken in 2004 when there was only 58 percent public support for the DREAM Act.

Over 1,000 people were randomly called by Opinion Research Corporation.

While the poll only asked two questions, the breakdown of respondents along party lines illustrates that 60 percent of polled Republicans want to see a DREAM Act passed.

A response like that gives hope to not only young DREAM Act students waiting for Congress to do something but should serve as an indicator to Democrats in Congress that immigration reform is not as dead an issue as their colleagues would like.

“The future success of our country lies in our ability to cultivate an educated workforce capable of competing in the global economy,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus. “We cannot afford to continue losing the talent of so many students who have already been educated in American schools. We strongly urge Congress to take action this year to pass the DREAM Act.”

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Undocumented students hunger strike ends

Posted June 29th, 2010 in Uncategorized by steve

Their hunger strike is over after 13 days, ended when one of them was hospitalized with heat stroke and exhaustion. But for the three young women who were encamped in Raleigh until Monday night, subsisting on water and sports drinks to call attention to their cause, the fight for immigration reform goes on. “We grew weaker, but our spirits grew stronger,” Rosario Lopez told 100 folks who attended a final fellowship gathering. “Let’s keep the dream alive.”

Continue here:

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High school kids stage protest for DREAM Act

Posted May 19th, 2010 in Uncategorized by steve

DREAM Act in the news:

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