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NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union has announced that it has awarded its highest honor, the Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty, to the five-year-old immigration organization United We Dream. Presented biennially, the award carries a $30,000 prize.
Named in 1989 for one of the ACLU's founders, the Medal of Liberty is traditionally awarded to an individual in recognition of a lifetime achievement on behalf of civil liberties in the U.S. However, in exceptional cases, it is awarded to an organization for a significant and current contribution to civil liberties.
"In just a few short years, United We Dream has risen to become a transformative leader for U.S. immigration reform, beginning with its breakthrough efforts to achieve equal access to higher education, regardless of immigration status, through the DREAM Act," said Susan Herman, president of the ACLU. "We are proud to honor the work of this remarkable organization and to use this opportunity to further highlight the critical need for immigration reform, long one of the ACLU's highest priorities and one of the utmost importance at a time when Congress is considering long overdue, comprehensive immigration reform."
United We Dream was founded in 2008 by a group of seven immigrant youth organizations inspired by the failure of the Senate to pass the DREAM Act one year earlier and seeking to create a youth-led grassroots movement 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 the ultimate enactment of the DREAM Act in 2012, as well as President Barack Obama's 2010 announcement that the Department of Homeland Security would grant temporary relief from deportation for eligible undocumented youth through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The organization is now focused on winning a path to citizenship for the entire immigrant community.
"United We Dream is delighted to accept this prestigious award from the ACLU, in honor of the work of the immigrant youth movement in defending the rights of immigrant communities across the country," said Cristina Jiménez, managing director of the organization. "At this key moment in the immigration reform debate, DREAMers are fighting for a real roadmap to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants — the millions of Americans without papers who came to this country seeking freedom and a better life. We won't stop sharing our stories and organizing until we win justice for DREAMers and immigrant families."
United We Dream was selected by a committee chaired by ACLU President Herman and including Deepak Bhargava, Diana Daniels, Geri Mannion, john powell, Judith Resnik, and David Shipler.
The award will be presented to Jiménez and United We Dream's Director of Advocacy and Policy Lorella Praeli at a special gala dinner at the ACLU Biennial Leadership Conference in Detroit, Mich., on June 8. The gala will be attended by board leaders and executive directors from the ACLU national office and each of the 53 ACLU affiliates across the country.