Dream Act students vow to continue fight
Democrats last-ditch effort to introduce the Dream Act as a stand alone bill during the lame-duck legislative session before the 112th...
Democrats last-ditch effort to introduce the Dream Act as a stand alone bill during the lame-duck legislative session before the 112th Congress takes the reigns in January, stalled Dec. 18, five votes shy of the 60 needed to pass the Senate.
The intensive involvement of young Dream Act students in the national struggle, though, is far from over. They continue to hold vigils and are taking steps to move their fight to the states, hoping to be better prepared and stronger in 2012.
A gathering of 75 students and activists Dec. 19 at Phoenix's First Congregational United Church of Christ shared the disillusion with Washington politics but rekindled their lingering faith that the virtue in their cause will prevail.
Undocumented student and secondary math education major Yadira García, a senior at Arizona State University, has contributed hundreds of hours organizing vigils and other events related to expanding public understanding of their situation. An active member of the Dream Act coalition here, she was born in Nogales, Mexico, and came to the United States when she was seven.
"Although our hearts are broken, our spirits are not," García says. "We don't feel defeated. We have more courage and support now. We will continue mobilizing."
Local undocumented students, most of whom have made their legal status public, are expressing their outrage this week with little apparent fear of deportation or detainment. A few hundred gathered Dec. 20 outside Senator John McCain's office on 16th St and Missouri
The rally and vigil outside the offices of a once-trusted ally of immigration reform and bipartisan compromise serves now as an action center as they press local and national politicians to reassess their positions on the Dream Act.
"We are going to continue pushing for a solutions-driven approach to immigration…The problem is not going away just because some members of Congress chose to block progress or malign immigrants and Latinos," declares Clarissa Martínez, director of immigration and national campaigns for the Washington, D.C.-based National Council of La Raza said. "We will work against the bankrupt mass-deportation strategies some in Congress seem so fond of, and pursue any opportunity to rebuild the bipartisan Congressional team that immigration reform needs."
Speaking at the National Press Club in the nation's capital last month, two Cornell University law professors said that while comprehensive immigration reform was "dead on arrival" for the incoming Congress, bills such as the Dream Act have a greater chance of surviving and reinvigorating the fight for immigrants' rights.
Stephen Yale-Loehr, an adjunct professor of law at the Ivy League university along with colleague Aziz Rana called comprehensive immigration reform inevitable, saying the immigration debate draws comparisons to the plight of civil liberties half a century ago.
"In many ways the immigration experience is the modern struggle…in a sense a successor of the civil rights movement," Rana said.
The separation between parties will likely be more polarized than it is now, especially among those House members who will be moving into leadership positions on committees influencing immigration legislation.
"I'd say the weather forecast for comprehensive immigration reform is storm warning immediately ahead with a glimmer of sunshine," Yale-Loehr said.
Only three Republicans broke ranks with the GOP and voted in favor of the bill, which would have eventually provided a path to citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants brought here at an early age if they first complete two years of military service or are successful to achieving at least an associate college degree.
Indiana Senator Dick Lugar, Utah Senator Bob Bennett and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who retained her incumbency Nov. 17 as a write-in candidate after losing her GOP nomination to Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, voted along 51 Democrats and Vermont's Independent Senator Bernie Sanders.