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: TheHill.com)
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.