Not Just the Face of the Immigration Reform Movement

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.

This post is part of a series on the first anniversary of the Obama Administration announcing DACA.

Learn more about DACA and other civil liberties issues: Sign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

View comments (1)
Read the Terms of Use

Hacim Obmed

The present immigration bill is rightly viewed as "amnesty", because it immediately removes the sanction of deportation and thereafter provides them with legal status. It thus imposes no more then a small fine for this benefit. The law thus provides no legal "punishment" in the true sense of this word. Additionally many republicans remember the promises of 1986 and do not have confidence that the border enforcement provisions of the law are strong enough or that sufficient appropriations will be provided to fully fund needed enforcement provisions over the long haul.

My suggestion to correct these two problems involves a plea bargain. To get legal status, Illegal aliens will appear in court and freely confess that they have broken the law. They will acknowledge that their violations subject them to deportation. They will then swear that they have committed no other criminal acts and they will beg the court for mercy and a lesser sentence. The judge will then offer them a bargain: First they must plead guilty to a single count of a pro-forma charge of "illegal presence". Then, in leu of deportation, they will be offered provisional legal status provided they pay a small fine and forfeit any possibility of getting SS benefits for the remainder of their lives. Finally, the SS taxes collected from persons that accept this bargain, will be placed an "immigration enforcement trust fund". These funds will be used to provide for various operations needed to insure that our immigration laws are strictly enforced and that 1986 is not repeated.

Stay Informed