LatinaLista — On a special conference call this afternoon with several women bloggers, Latina Lista included, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the lines to discuss a wide range of issues — from the First Lady’s recent visit to Nevada to promote her “Let’s Move” initiative to the BP oil spill, financial regulations, energy and, because I asked, immigration.
Before I could get to the heart of my question, Sen. Reid wanted to know what “Latina Lista” meant. To simplify things, I told him that it meant a wise Latina. Then I said jokingly that Latina Lista was the first “Wise Latina” before Sotomayor, to which he responded evenly, “They all say that.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Chalking that reply up to that dry Nevada humor, and after telling him that since Latina Lista has been around since 2004, it was true, I was allowed to get to my question which was: In light of how things have stalled with comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), and there is now a push to pass the DREAM Act as a standalone bill, how did he feel about that.
He wasted no time in saying he didn’t like the idea nor did he endorse it.
“We can’t just do the DREAM Act,” Sen. Reid replied matter-of-factly. “Republicans would have a field day with adding amendments to it.”
The implication was that introducing the DREAM Act as a standalone bill opens the door for amendments that would be more harmful to the overall CIR effort.
From his tone, Sen. Reid considered the subject closed.
Yet, there is a building momentum across the nation to push for only the DREAM Act since there is a general feeling among supporters and immigrant advocate groups that time has run out for any serious address of CIR in Congress.
In fact, the momentum is gaining such strength that undocumented students, who usually try to stay within the shadows, are now openly declaring their status — sometimes from even a podium.
A recent column in The Orange County Register reported how a young man who had excelled academically and was being honored as a result of his participation in the Nicholas Academic Center program declared his undocumented status in front of a crowd of about 350 people.
“I knew being an undocumented student was going to be an obstacle,” he told the audience in nervous but unaccented English. “I knew that lots of undocumented students (get) into great colleges and couldn’t pay for it.”
That would not be a problem for our guy, as it turned out, because he earned a privately funded scholarship that will pay for all four years at a highly ranked university. He noted that another undocumented kid won the same scholarship the year before, both of them overcoming the sponsor’s reluctance to award it to someone not here legally.
He said he told her, “Ma’am, I’m pretty sure your investment will (pay off).”
People will wonder why would a bright student commit such a stupid act knowing that he could easily be picked up by law enforcement, if somebody was especially mean or jealous and report him to the authorities for deportation.
The reason is simple. This student, along with other undocumented students, is tired of empty promises and false hopes.
These students see that the adults in Congress have no political will to do the right thing and so they are taking it upon themselves to show the nation that they deserve to be here because they have followed all the rules and completed what was asked of them. It wasn’t their fault that they were brought here as children but now that they are young adults and can stand up for themselves — they want to correct the situation.
No one can fault their frustration at the glacial way things are moving in Washington. As one DREAM student named Mohammad wrote at DreamActivist.org:
We are at a fork in the road right now. If we continue to go the way we are going we will get neither the DREAM Act or any form of reform. Our communities will suffer another defeat at the hands of people who are in it just for a pay-check, who are waiting to get invited to the next meeting in D.C., and have little regard for what is happening to our families and our youth. A (not-so) wise man from within the Reform Immigration for America campaign recently caught me by surprise when he told me, during a semi-private phone call where I was berated for still pushing DREAM, flat-out, “who says our communities need a win this year?”
Yes, you read it right. The mantra that these people are working off of is “who says our communities need a win this year?!”
The immigrant youth want a win this year and are willing to do everything that needs to happen to get the win. We are willing to put ourselves on the front lines as we have all the years past. We are willing to walk 1500 miles. We are willing to go on an indefinite hunger strike. We are willing to conduct sit-ins at congressional and campaign offices and put ourselves into deportation proceedings. We are willing to risk deportation.
So that brings me back to the fork in the road. We have two options right now: either we continue to play this waiting and pandering game to these groups that want nothing to do with us and care nothing about our futures, or we take a risk, we take a stand, and we push for the DREAM Act to pass as a stand alone bill.
The message doesn’t get any clearer than this — this is far from a closed subject.