LatinaLista -- Since the immigration debate began in earnest back in 2006 when marchers filled the streets from Los Angeles to Washington DC, students have had a pivotal role. In some cities, it was the students who organized marches using their social media tools.
During the 2008 presidential election when it was imperative that young Latinos register to vote, as well as, their family members, the students more than rose to the occasion. In fact, it was because of the student voter turnout that Latinos registered an increase in voters for the first time.
Every step of the way, students have been an integral part of every campaign meant to move the immigration debate forward -- especially the undocumented students.
While they couldn't themselves vote in the 2008 presidential election, they campaigned like they could. Reports always included stories of how undocumented students stood alongside their peers who were citizens to impress upon them how important it was for them that they vote and be their voices in the voting booths.
We know how well it worked.
Now, these undocumented students are using their own voices to progress the debate for immigration reform and some members of the Latino community don't want to see them succeed.
The big dilemma for immigration reform advocates has always been to how to make the issue palatable for people with a very narrow vision of today's reality. The element that satisfies this problem is the DREAM Act.
Just about everybody who understands the DREAM Act realizes that it's the only fair solution for the young people who grew up in the United States because their parents brought them to this country as young children -- with no say in the decision.
Even the most staunch political critic against passing comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) softens when it comes to the DREAM Act. That's why immigration reform advocates want to keep the DREAM Act as part of the bigger CIR bill. It has always been the hope that the DREAM Act could help propel the larger CIR bill to passage.
But as time goes by, it's apparent that CIR is a lot tougher to pass than even healthcare. In the meantime, the students are seeing their futures disappear. Some are getting older and may not qualify for the DREAM Act when it does pass. Others can't go to school or put to work the degrees they did earn. And still others are waiting to see if they will be deported after having been caught by their local police for simply doing what young people do.
The students have been waiting patiently and working alongside immigration reform advocates and politicians to encourage the GOP to come on board with CIR, but it's no use.
So, the students have struck out on their own and started pushing for passage of the DREAM Act as a standalone bill. Already, some GOP congressmen have expressed support for the DREAM Act -- a lot more than who have expressed support for CIR.
Yet, there are immigration reform advocates who don't want the students to press the issue of a standalone bill because they fear it will hurt the chances of CIR passing.
These people and organizations can't be blamed. After all, they've dedicated the last years of their lives to getting CIR passed. It's been a hard enough battle so far and if the DREAM Act is pulled out of the mix, then it's going to be an even tougher sell -- but not impossible.
The simple truth is that it's time to do the right thing and help the students.
For starters, it's just not fair to keep these young people waiting for their dream when it's within reach as a standalone bill, but will hang in limbo for who knows how long as part of CIR.
These students have proven their dedication to getting CIR passed. I have faith that it won't stop once they get their citizenship status normalized. In fact, among these same students will emerge some of the strongest leaders of the Latino community in the future, of that I'm certain because I've already met some of them.
Who is to say that once the DREAM Act is passed that there won't be a realization among the critics that its passage didn't mean the destruction of U.S. society? Passage of the DREAM Act could pave the way for CIR.
The bottom line is if the DREAM Act already has the bipartisan support it seems to have then no one -- no Latino politician, no Latino immigration advocacy org or even the Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- has the right to prevent this opportunity for these students from coming to fruition.
From comments left on the Latina Lista Facebook wall, there are many Latinos and Latinas outside the realm of politics -- in education, media, business, the arts and stay-at-home mothers -- who have expressed their support for the students in their drive to get the DREAM Act passed before Spring 2011 semester.
Some of the students have been accused of dividing the immigration movement with their stance. And maybe they have, but their train is clearly moving faster than the CIR train.
Isn't it time we all get on board a train that is going somewhere -- and catch the next one the next go-round?