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Guest Voz: Burning out doesn’t mean giving up for tireless rights activist

LatinaLista — No one ever said fighting for justice or human rights is easy. The problem is that, compared to the total U.S. population, only a smattering of people have ever actually fought for these issues.

Kyle de Beausset.jpg

Aside from marching in the streets, waving protest signs or calling Congressional offices there is a lot more personal sacrifice involved than what most people know. This is especially true for those who have fought on behalf of undocumented students for passage of the DREAM Act.

Kyle, DREAM Act activist

One particular fighter is a student named Kyle. He grew up in Guatemala but is American by birth and heritage. He’s not undocumented but Kyle is one of those compassionate and passionate young people who gets impatient with injustice.

Kyle has been organizing, blogging, traveling and paying out of his own pocket for expenses incurred during this fight.

In essence, he has been juggling two jobs all this time — going to school and fighting on behalf of undocumented students. As hope for passage of the DREAM Act rests on one last opportunity, Kyle has reached the point, as anyone who commits all they have to something, where he’s feeling burnt out.

Yet, he struggles to go on, as many students and civil rights activists do who have been fighting for a cause that is too important to abandon but emotionally and physically draining.

In a piece that he wrote for his blog Citizen Orange, Kyle frankly expresses his feelings of exhaustion, hopes and fears.


Suffering from DREAM Act Burnout? Read This!


I’m going to confess something I probably shouldn’t in the lead of this post: I’m burnt out.  I’ve been fighting for migrant rights ever since I almost gave my life for this fight five years ago. I’ve been fighting for migrant youth exclusively for almost three years, now, and for the last six months I’ve been putting more than every resource I have, mental and physical, into trying to pass the DREAM Act through my efforts in Maine.

I’m not even undocumented, and I can’t even begin to imagine how the undocumented youth I fight alongside are able to do all this.

After all of this fighting, I recently had the privilege of living through what will always be one of the greatest moments of my life.

There aren’t enough words to describe how I felt when I witnessed the release of Selvin Arévalo back to his community in Maine after he was detained for seven months.  I was told both by leaders in Washington D.C., across the nation, and locally in Maine, that it shouldn’t or couldn’t be done, or even worse that it didn’t matter.

I can’t even begin to convey the ups and downs of fighting for Selvin over the last six months.  If I had to name the single most beautiful thing about releasing Selvin it was that it filled a hole in a community that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had torn apart.

It doesn’t seem like much when you write it out like that but when you’ve come to intimately know his family members and friends as I have, you know how much that means.

There’s still much to be done for Selvin, but I’m happy to say that I was a small part of giving him and his community the power to fight for themselves. If we hadn’t been able to release Selvin, it very well might have been the death of a budding migrant youth movement in Maine. Now, we’ve shown our power in a state where there are two key Senate votes for the DREAM Act.

Still, to get back to the point of my post, after celebrating Selvin’s release and organizing the first coming out event for undocumented youth in Maine’s history, I was and am still burnt out. The worst part, and again I probably shouldn’t admit this publicly, is that my soul felt like our best chance at the DREAM Act was already behind us, that I had already lived through the climax of our success.



My brain didn’t want to admit it, but it’s what my heart felt.  Democrats had promised everyone and their mother something in the lame-duck session. While I expected a half-hearted attempt at getting the DREAM Act passed, I didn’t feel we’d get a better shot then the one we already had.

Nancy Pelosi announced her support for voting on the DREAM Act in the House, but I still felt this way. Barack Obama announced his support for moving the the DREAM Act, but I still felt this way.  It wasn’t until four brave undocumented youth put their lives on the line, yet again, in John McCain’s office that something in my heart began to stir.  That evening, everything in my heart changed when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that he would bring up the DREAM Act as a standalone bill.

For those not immersed in this fight, the nuance of Reid’s announcement might not seem that important. I knew though, from the reaction of wavering Senators last time, that Reid’s decision to use valuable floor time in the lame-duck session for a vote on a standalone DREAM Act was our best shot at getting the votes we needed.

The chief objection of Republican Senators last time was a procedural one.  They objected to voting on the DREAM Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, and two Senators, Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Bob Bennett (R-UT) committed publicly at the time to voting for the DREAM act if it was brought up as a standalone bill.

Richard Lugar and Bob Bennett might still waver, and everyone’s saying that we need a total of five to seven Republican votes to win, but the way I look at it is that if the entire Senate Democrat Caucus commits not to filibuster the DREAM Act, and Lugar and Bennett don’t go back on their word, we can really win this. I wouldn’t write that if it weren’t true.

I’m still burnt out.

I have exactly $4.57 in my bank account and my credit cards are maxed out. I’m not in the best spiritual, mental, or physical state, but the knowledge that we actually have a better chance to win this time then the last has replenished my energy for one last go at this.

Not only is this our last chance for at least two years to contribute to the emancipation of almost a million people, but it’s our best chance ever. It’s hard even for me to believe that I’m saying that, but I wouldn’t write it if it weren’t true.

Much of my organizing sense tells me that I shouldn’t be writing all of this this way, but I’m hoping the knowledge that this is our best chance ever will keep others going in the same way it’s keeping me going. The only way I know how to write when I haven’t written in weeks is to put down exactly what I’m feeling so I hope it comes off right.

If you’re not sure where to put your energy, I would say put everything you have into moving Democrat and Republican Senators who are on the fence. I don’t have to put out confidential lists of those Senators because fortunately, the leader of the nativist noise machine Michelle Malkin, is doing much of our whip count for us.

Here’s her latest on wavering Democrats:

SEN. JIM WEBB OF VIRGINIA 202-224-4024; 703-573-7090. Staff says “he hasn’t made a public statement.”

SEN. KENT CONRAD OF NORTH DAKOTA 202-224-2043; 701-258-4648. Staff says “he hasn’t released a statement.” Conrad has voted against the DREAM Act in the past.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN OF NORTH DAKOTA 202 224-2551. He voted against the DREAM Act in the past. Staff says he “hasn’t taken a public position.”

SAS 202-224-2353; 501-324-6336
. He voted no on the DREAM Act cloture vote in September. Staff says he is “likely” to vote no again, though he hasn’t made an official public statement yet.

SEN. JON TESTER OF MONTANA 202 224-2644. Staff says he has voted against the DREAM Act in the past and “he will probably vote against any bill that has amnesty in it.”

SEN. MAX BAUCUS OF MONTANA 202-224-2651. He has opposed the DREAM Act in the past and is a “likely no” again in this session.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL OF MISSOURI 202-224-6154. She opposed the DREAM Act in the past and staff says she has made no statement changing her position otherwise.

Wavering Republicans:

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE 202-224-5344; 207-874-0883: Staff says she “hasn’t released a statement.”

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS 202-224-2523; 207-945-0417: Staff says she “hasn’t released a public statement.”

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI 202-224-6665; 907-271-3735: Staff says she’s “still reviewing the bill.”

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK 202-224-6521; 785-233-2503 Staff says he “hasn’t had a chance to look at it” and remains non-committal.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON 202-224-5922; 214-361-3500: Staff says she “hasn’t released a statement,” but will probably do so later today. 

SEN. GEORGE LEMIEUX 202-224-3041; 904-398-8586: Recorded message informs callers that he’s “in a meeting.” He has yet to publicly state his position as open-borders extremists step up pressure

If you’ve got any gas left in your tank, do everything in your power to move the above Senators.  Call, yes, but do more than that if you can.

If you can drive up to Maine with me this weekend to help me move Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, I can use all the help I can get.  If you can’t, I’d appreciate you throwing some money my way so I can put gas in my tank to bring others up to Maine.

Like I said I’ve only got $4.57 in my bank account. Let’s do this herman@s. We got this.

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