Photo Credit: Julio Salgado; http://juliosalgado83.tumblr.com/
In a victory for undocumented immigrants and their allies, on Friday, June 15, after facing years of pressure, President Obama announced a new plan to stop deportations of certain undocumented immigrants. The adjustments mirror those in the proposed DREAM Act, which would have offered amnesty to undocumented students who came here as children, provided they were in school, had a high school diploma or completed their general education development (GED), or had committed to military service. Similarly, the change disclosed this morning would offer a two-year reprieve from deportation for undocumented residents who came here as children, are under 30, have no felonies or repeat misdemeanors, and satisfy the education and/or military requirements. During this two-year relief period, immigrants can apply for work permits. However, as the administration has made clear, the shift does not offer amnesty or a path to citizenship. The Associated Press reports that as many as 800,000 young immigrants will be positively affected by the new rule.
This may be the boldest move the Obama administration has made to stem the record-breaking tide of deportations. It will offer much-needed relief to hundreds of thousands of immigrants, but some remain skeptical, for a few reasons. First, previous efforts to help undocumented families, such as last year’s decision to use “prosecutorial discretion” to halt some deportations, have achieved mixed results. Second, the rhetoric on “helping immigrants” still narrows itself to aiding the “good,” “productive” ones who don’t “pose a threat to national security.” This reasoning erases the contributions of millions of immigrants, whose collective labor in agriculture, construction, food service and other industries has helped improve the lives of U.S. residents. Third, activists have pressured the President for years to help reform the immigration system, only to be met with assurances that Obama himself could do little to change anything. DREAMers rallied in Washington, staged sit-ins, and audaciously refused to be silenced. The timing of this announcement, because it so boldly reverses course on previous statements from the President, makes some wonder about his commitment to meaningful reform in the face of Congressional opposition. Fourth, the new order essentially allows undocumented immigrants to continue contributing their labor while waiting to see if they can become citizens. Since this is an executive order, and not a law, future presidents could easily reverse it. It remains to be seen when elected officials will learn to accept that all immigrants are valuable, not just certain ones.
Check out these panel discussions, filmed by Uprooted in March, at the 2011 Left Forum, the largest annual conference of left and progressive intellectuals, activists, academics, organizations and individuals. These two panel discussions “Race and Racism in the Immigration Debate” and “Pass the Dream Act: How the Student Immigrant Youth is Leading the Immigration Debate” provide some food for thought on some of the central issues addressed by Uprooted.
Watch it here:
The goal of Uprooted is to bring together many different voices speaking out about migration. On this blog we have posted several videos of the DREAMers, those brave and unflinching youth who are fighting to pass the one piece of legislation they feel comes anywhere close to granting them real reform. These young people are spear-heading the fight to gain rights for people without documents. They feel that the DREAM Act is the only viable bill that could possibly gain them some of these rights, and they argue that whatever its shortcomings, it is still worth fighting for. The DREAM Act would allow undocumented youth the possibility to gain papers by either going to college or joining the military. Supporters of the bill contend that even the military provision should not be a deal breaker, for shouldn’t undocumented students have all the same rights as others, even the right to join the military?
Yet we feel we can not ignore those voices that critique and criticize the DREAM Act as well. Not because they oppose the principals that everyone is entitled to an education or the security to know that they will not be uprooted from their home and separated from their families; but rather because they oppose the militaristic aspect of the bill. There are those who see the military section of the DREAM Act as a virtual draft of undocumented youth, a sort of blackmail to join the armed forces in exchange for papers. There are those activists who say, “We must champion the DREAMers movement — that is, a real DREAM Act without any militaristic strings attached.”
For the perusal of all those interested in this discussion we would like to recommend the following articles:
Rethinking the DREAM Act by Alejandra Juarez
DREAM Act as Military Draft? A statement from the Vamos Unidos Youth
In this touching video piece, a young undocumented immigrant discusses how it feels to be trapped in a world where undocumented immigrants, who are primarily Latino, are cast as parasites that drain the United States of its resources without offering a feasible path to citizenship to those already here. It is crucial to remember that the immigration debate has had and will continue to have real effects, not only for the U.S., but for the millions of people who want to live, work and be happy in the country.
As city and state governments continue to grapple over the issue of undocumented immigration, one perspective that has been nearly invisible in the mainstream media is that of the undocumented themselves. Recently, undocumented immigrants of many ages from across the country have come out to voice their opinions on the policies that will determine their futures. By coming out publicly to demand civil rights and equal protection under the law, undocumented immigrants, many of whom, but for their crossing the border, would have no criminal records whatsoever, risk everything. Last year, a group of undocumented students held a peaceful sit-in in two Congressional offices to protest in favor of the DREAM Act. All 21 of them were arrested.
Similarly, a young father in Chicago faces deportation as he attempts to mobilize his community in support of the DREAM Act. Even in the face of deportation, which has devastated many families, undocumented immigrants continue to remind those in charge that they will not back down until lawmakers treat them with the fairness and respect they deserve.
PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE NEW YORK DREAM ACT
220 Fifth Ave, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 2.00pm
The New York DREAM Act will provide access to undocumented youth to accomplish their dreams and contribute back to their communities
New York, N.Y. The New York State Youth Leadership Council is proud and pleased to announce that today undocumented youth have prevailed. After the defeat of the federal version of the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path for citizenship to undocumented youth, the NYSYLC started an aggressive campaign to introduce and gather support for the first ever state version of the bill. Yesterday, State Senator Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan) introduced the New York DREAM Act (S. 4179), co-sponsored by State Senator Dan Squadron (D-Brooklyn). This bill would provide benefits to New York undocumented youth who meet certain criteria. The benefits include access to financial aid for higher education, access to driver’s licenses, work authorization and access to health care. In order to qualify for these benefits, the young person must have arrived to the United States before the age of 16, be under the age of 35, have resided in New York State for at least two years, have obtained a high school diploma or GED equivalent from an American institution and have good moral character.
NYSYLC members welcomed the news with open arms and renewed their commitment to fight for their dreams. The New York DREAM Act will help undocumented youth achieve their educational and professional goals, and allow them to contribute to their communities. This is the first pro-immigrant bill that has been introduced in the state this year, and would provide much needed relief to immigrant communities.
For media inquiries, please contact Daniela at 646-472-9565
The NYSYLC is a youth led organization that seeks to improve access to higher education and creating equal opportunity for immigrant youth and children of immigrants, regardless of immigration status through leadership development, organizing and advocacy.
As part of the National Coming Out of the Shadows week of action in support of the Dream Act, student dreamers from Lehman College shared their stories on the school quad. As undocumented youth fighting for their rights, the Lehman Dreamers told the world why they are “Undocumented, Unafraid and Unapologetic”. The Uprooted team was there filming the event, check out the video below:
Coming Out of the Shadows at Lehman College Part 1:
Coming Out of the Shadows at Lehman College Part 2:
Coming Out of the Shadows at Lehman College Part 3: