Every movement needs a face – someone whose story transcends traditional dividing lines and has the capacity to change hearts and minds. For immigration reform, it's not just one story, but rather the collective stories of DREAMers, undocumented youth who came to the U.S. as children. By sharing their powerful stories of how they are American in all but paperwork, DREAMers have shifted public opinion in a way that wouldn't have seemed possible a few short years ago: A poll released yesterday found that there is overwhelming bipartisan support for immigration reform (up to 78 percent support in some states).
But as important as their stories have been to the immigration reform movement, we can't lose sight of the critical organizing DREAMers have been engaged in for years, pushing not only for the DREAM Act, but also for creating an environment where voices as disparate as Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) can vote "Yes" to move sweeping immigration reform legislation out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
And we can't forget that for years, before the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that let them stay in the U.S., DREAMers put themselves at grave personal risk of deportation by coming out of the shadows and speaking out. But they did so anyway.
One organization that epitomizes this spirit perhaps more than any other is United We Dream, a youth-led grassroots movement that works to address the challenges faced by immigrant children and their families. The organization's first convening in 2009 drew 40 people. Today, United We Dream is a network of 52 organizations in 25 states. It includes 4,000 young immigrants whose work resulted in President Obama announcing the DACA program on June 15, 2012. Now the organization is focused on winning a roadmap to citizenship for the entire immigrant community.
Because of United We Dream's significant and current contributions to civil liberties, the ACLU last week awarded its highest honor, the Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty, to United We Dream. And so on this one-year anniversary of DACA, we salute the DREAMers, and we too look at the coming months with great hope that in large part because of them, we'll be able to celebrate a broad legislative victory for immigrants.