While the details of the various proposals differ, the DREAM Act would basically provide a path to legal residency and eventually citizenship for minors who were brought to the country illegally by their parents. Among other things, they would have to successfully complete a few years of military service or college education.
After passing the House late last year, the legislation failed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. The Dreamers are now preparing for round two after the United We Dream (UWD) network held a national congress earlier this month.
Now, their movement is larger than ever—over 200 DREAM activists from over 30 states gathered at UWD’s national congress. Felipe Matos, a Dreamer from Florida, proclaimed to his peers: “The lame duck vote was just a setback…Now we’re going to build power.”
The Memphis event aimed to solidify a national network in which local and state leaders learn from one another and coordinate efforts. Such capacity building is part of working toward consolidating individual organizations and fighting together to achieve three movement goals.
First, like other immigrant rights groups, Dreamers will focus on state and local legislative battles. With dozens of states considering anti-immigrant bills—copycats of Arizona’s SB 1070, challenges to birthright citizenship, and cutting undocumented immigrants from public services, including primary education—mobilizing immigrant communities and allies will be critical.
Second, with deportations under President Obama outpacing President Bush’s tally, Dreamers have launched the Education Not Deportation (END) campaign to help undocumented students fight deportation and stay in school. UWD hopes that END will protect undocumented students while, in Felipe’s words, “unveil[ing] the moral crisis caused by the current enforcement, detention, and deportation policies.”
But Dreamers also see hope in immigrant-friendly states. Already, 10 states, including Texas, Utah, and Kansas, offer in-state college tuition to undocumented students. Legislators in certain states, like New Mexico, are calling for repeal. But, with strong organizing, Dreamers hope to repel these opponents and expand the number of states that offer them an affordable college education. Winning even one or two such state-level fights would be a huge accomplishment.Supporting the DREAM act is both the right thing to do for these kids and for our country.
At the heart of the Dreamers’ strategy will be efforts to raise up their powerful stories.