How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Live to die another day:' With Senate Dream Act vote tabled, students go back to the phones

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

UCLA graduate student Carlos Amador addresses media at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles following the Senate's vote to table to Dream Act until next week, December 9, 2010

The Senate's decision this morning to table a vote on the Dream Act was greeted with optimism and a bit of relief by Los Angeles students and graduates who celebrated the bill's victory in the House last night, after a long day of making calls to legislators for support. Now, they go back to the phones.

"Last night's vote in the House was an historic vote," said Carlos Amador, 27, an undocumented UCLA graduate student and one of the leaders among the local students pushing for the bill. As for the Senate, "we know it's a tough battle, but we know that we can make it."

Amador, along with other college students, graduates and Dream Act supporters, spoke to reporters at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, where dozens spent yesterday calling legislators from a makeshift phone bank.

Several of the students gathered again today to make more calls before the anticipated Senate vote. While a decisive vote was expected today, the Senate voted to table the measure until later this month, possibly next week.

The stakes are high for many of the young people campaigning for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would grant conditional legal status to undocumented youths who attend college or enlist in the military, provided they arrived here before age 16 and meet strict criteria.

Many of the students making calls yesterday at the UCLA center in downtown Los Angeles are undocumented; others have family members and friends who are. One college graduate making calls yesterday, a U.S. citizen, said she was there for her best friend, a young woman brought to the United States by her parents when she was a baby. She said her friend wasn't there making calls because she was at her housekeeping job.

Those watching C-SPAN on a large screen at the center this morning expressed relief following the Senate vote, which they feel buys them more time. Senate Democrats will need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, meaning that more Republican votes, now lacking, will be needed. A few more days gives supporters more time to make calls and drum up Senate support, students said.

"This is a good thing," said a Cal State Fullerton graduate named Patricia, who did not want to give her last name because of her undocumented status. "Why rush it?"

But she and others know it's iffy. As the Senate vote to table was announced, Amador tempered his optimism with dark humor. "We'll live to die another day," he cracked.

Student organizers in L.A. said that a national advocacy group logged a record number of calls yesterday, about 50,000, to legislators from Dream Act supporters. They planned to keep making calls throughout the weekend.

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