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DREAM Act students’ protests forcing a reality check for immigration reform advocates

LatinaLista — Today in Washington DC, in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building, several students dressed in graduation caps and gowns were handcuffed and led away by Capitol police.


These students were staging a passive protest hoping to spur congressional action on The DREAM Act. If you don’t know by now, the DREAM Act would allow some undocumented students to either go to college and earn degrees or put the degrees they already have to work or for other students, to enter the military — but all would receive the opportunity to officially become citizens.

DREAM Act student protesters are arrested by Capitol police. (Photo:

The students had positioned themselves around a sign taped to the floor of the atrium that read in part: “Undocumented and Unafraid.” Some people didn’t care for the tactic.

Reached for comment following the arrests, a (Sen. Dick) 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.”

Unfortunately, that Washington spokesperson doesn’t get it — a sign that he probably isn’t alone. It’s precisely these kinds of “publicity stunts” that are pushing the issue like it’s never been pushed before. Most agree that if there is a fight to be won when it comes to undocumented immigrants, it will be with the DREAM Act. But, the question everyone wants to know is — When?

Who can blame these students for being frustrated and impatient with Congress?

The best years for learning and joining the workforce as degreed professionals are slipping away. These students understand that it’s either now or a long, long, long time from now for the DREAM Act, especially if the Democrats get unseated as the majority party in Congress after November elections.

Unfortunately, too many immigration reform advocates, while supporting the students are choosing to refuse to support the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill, separate from comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).

But it’s time for a reality check.

Between the two issues, the DREAM Act has a much higher potential for passage before November. Any form of CIR that passes would no doubt have a variety of different elements which would make implementation spread out over a period of time. The DREAM Act deals specifically with one population — young people, and therefore should be less bureaucratic in implementing it.

And lastly, these DREAM Act students have taken high risks to get the issue noticed by the mainstream media and Congress, have been able to organize and rally around their peers who are threatened with deportations and have worked tirelessly to promote passage of the DREAM Act.

They deserve to be the first round in reforming immigration.

As I mentioned earlier, the DREAM Act students have been tireless in their creativity to bring awareness to their issue. The latest campaign is “The DREAM Now Series: Letters to Barack Obama.”

It’s a social media campaign that launched yesterday, July 19, 2010. The purpose of the campaign is to hear in the students’ own voices why they feel it’s so urgent that the DREAM Act be passed. Every week, DREAM-eligible students will post a letter President Obama, which will be reposted on Latina Lista.


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.

On May 17, according to the New York Times, I become one of the first undocumented students, along with two others, to “have directly risked deportation in an effort to prompt Congress to take up [the DREAM Act].” Risking deportation was no small act for me. Not only did I risk being forcibly removed from United States, the only country I know as my home, to Iran, where I don’t know the culture or the language. I also happen to be gay. In Iran, people like me are tortured and executed. I am still at risk of deportation and execution, right now, and I will continue to be at risk until the DREAM Act is passed.

I took this risk because I had no choice. For all of my life, my future has been held hostage by politicians, both Democrat and Republican, who have used me as a political football. My family immigrated to the United States from Iran when I was just three years old. Undocumented immigrants are often told, “get in line!” without knowing that many of us were at one point in this infamous line. My family was “in line” until an immigration attorney miscalculated the processing fee for an H1-B visa by $20 dollars and our application was rejected. The second attorney my family hired to fix the application spent his time bickering with the old attorney instead of informing my parents that they only had 60 days to appeal our rejected application. The deadline came and went and we became undocumented.

I’ve known I was undocumented for a long time, but I still graduated from high school. While working to pay out-of-state tuition, I was able to earn my Associate’s degreein Health and Human Services from Washtenaw College. When I had enough credits, I applied to Eastern Michigan University. I handed a counselor there my transcript and he said, “Mohammad, you are the kind of student we want at this university.” He then handed me an acceptance letter. I was in.

I looked at this letter and thought of my mother. With this piece of paper, I could go to my mother and tell her that she didn’t have to stay up late crying anymore. She didn’t have to blame herself anymore. She hadn’t done her children wrong by bringing them to this country. I could tell her it was all worth it. Then, the counselor brought back his supervisor, who told me that they could not accept me because I “needed to be in a line to get in”. The counselor then reached over his desk and took my acceptance letter from me.

I left. My future was being held hostage. A short time later, the DREAM Act came up for a vote in the Senate, and 44 other people decided that they too were going to hold my future hostage. Three years later, my future and the futures of over 2 million others are still being held hostage. Two months ago, I risked my life because once again the window to my future is closing. I am in limbo. I cannot contribute to the only country I know as my home. I also cannot return to Iran, where the penalty for homosexuality is capital punishment.

My only hope is for the DREAM Act to pass, but time is running out in this Congress. The DREAM Act has more support in the Senate than any other piece of immigration legislation, but it is being held hostage by Democrats who do not want to vote on it separately from comprehensive immigration reform, and by Republicans who refuse to publicly support legislation they have supported before.
I made history two months ago, and today, along with hundreds of other undocumented youth from across the nation, I will make history again. Hundreds of us are descending on Washington D.C. to ask Congress to stop holding our lives hostage and to pass the DREAM Act now. Please stand with us and ask Congress to pass the DREAM Act, now.

Mohammad Abdollahi

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  • The american
    July 20, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Mohammad you are not the only one that has a compelling story. I know of other undocumented who contributed a great deal to the US have US family and still in the limbo. I wish y ou had somebody to advice you not to make history and remain in a low profile until congress does something. That would have been the smartest thing to do. The Dream Act should be passed within a major Immigration reform NOT BY ITSELF!! hope CIR passes and finally you find the US your home officially
    The American

  • Ed
    July 20, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    They should be deported period. It’s bad enough we dangle automatic birthright citizenship for illegals as an enticement to migrate here now with the DREAM Act it will motivate
    more to risk the lives of their children to get here.

  • mlimberg
    July 20, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Why do the Mexican turn their backs on their Country when it is being attacked by Drug Cartels? Mexico will soon be lost for ever, and the spineless Mexican men do not have the will to fight for their Country. Is it any wonder that Mexico is such a wasteland. Now you want to take the easy route and move to America. What a spineless bunch of cowards. Shameful.

  • waiting
    July 20, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Broken immigration system…..broken familes and broken hearts
    This a story of a 60 year lady who who worked hard for 10 years in USA ……please read.
    My aunt(my mother’s sister) applied for visa for my mother, my father and myself in 1984. After 12 years in 1996 we received
    visa number to get visa. But unluckily I did not get visa because I am over 21 years just by 2 months,
    My mother got visa and went to USA in 1999 and applied for my visa family based F2B category in 2001.
    My father had to stay back with me.
    After working for 10 long years in USA in the age of 58, my mother got citizenship in April 2009.
    Even though she is not used to cold weather she worked hard just to give a oppurtunity for me to come to USA.
    I got married in 2007, My F2B petition looks like revoked since I got married and no body from USCIS informed that
    my mother should apply fresh i-130 for me and my wife. We found that out now. We called USCIS and asked why we were not notified since 1 year
    that the F2B application was void. We got simple answere ‘Sorry’. Will this ‘sorry’ give respect to my mother. Its an insult to
    hard working mother.
    Now my mother is going to apply for me new petition under F3 category and it will take another 9 years for me to get visa as per visa buletin.
    So totaly 12+10+9=31 years to get visa for me.
    My question is.
    1. Who ever made this immigration law do they have any humanity.
    2. We have gone thru lot of tension, sarrow and anxity all these years. Still I dont have VISA and have to wait another 9 years.
    3. Is this fair to make 60 year old woman to work like this in cold weather for 19 years just give VISA to her loved kids.
    4. USA is always said its immigrant’s contry.. Is this the way to treat immigrants???
    5. If USA dont want people they should stop this VISAs and stop this family agony completely.
    6. This is completely not fair what our family has gone thru.
    7. Does any one from law makers realize what 31 years of waiting means.
    8. If I had got visa in right time I would have contributed so much to USA (tax…work may be some new invention(am serious on this).
    9. I am young give me chance to work why are you making my mother to work…
    10. So what i decided is we stay in our country I will support my mom build her home and give all respect which a so called ‘the great country’ could not do.
    This is not aceptable by any one what USA immigration law has done to our family.
    I hope Mr President Obama will change immigration law this to reduce the VISA wait time for family.

  • Jim Van Matre
    July 20, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    That first paragraph of Mohammad’s letter almost made me cry. Thats some powerful stuff, how can anyone deny the DREAM act is a good thing.

  • Beth Wellington
    July 24, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I linked to your story in my review of another one on the DREAM Act protest. I hope you get some traffic from it.

  • Karen
    July 26, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Re” Now you want to take the easy route and move to America. ”
    Maybe you should save that speech for your European ancestors who came to America rather than fight to rid Europe of its monarchies.
    I have no problem with people leaving a bad situation for something better. That is the story of humankind. It takes courage to uproot yourself and step into the unknown.

  • karen
    July 26, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I am sorry for your plight. Our system is indeed broken. I have no idea what the point is of having somebody wait that long for a Visa. I suspect it’s a ploy to keep the immigration lawyers in buisness.
    We need leaders who have the courage to do their job and streamline this system. People should be able to fill out all of their paperwork online and their applications should be processed in a timely manner.

  • Karen
    July 26, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Re: “automatic birthright citizenship”
    It’s called the 14th Amendment to the constitution.
    Racists certainly are becoming desperate these days! Now they want to go back to the mid-19th century and repeal the 14th Amendment. Sad…

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