How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

2011 version of the Dream Act to get its first Senate hearing

Photo by CSU Stanislaus Photo/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A new and slightly revised version of the federal Dream Act will get its first Senate hearing tomorrow morning, more than a month after Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and other top Senate Democrats announced plans to bring it back.

The new Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act differs only slightly from the one approved by the House last December, which moved to the Senate but failed to draw enough votes for cloture.

Like prior versions, the bill would grant conditional legal status to qualifying young people who are in the United States illegally but were brought here as minors under 16, so long as they attend college or join the military. There are only a few key differences from last year's version:

  • The age cap for applicants, which was reduced to age 29 last year, has been bumped back up to 35 years of age or younger

  • The length of conditional legal status before applicants may obtain permanent legal resident status has been reduced to six years, as in an earlier version, from 10 years

  • This version would, as did an earlier version (but not the House-approved one), seek to repeal a ban on in-state tuition rates for beneficiaries


'Dreamers' and social media: It's not your parents’ immigrant support network

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A student's bold statement, December 8, 2010

On Wednesday, a young woman who is a law student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. tweeted this message:

My name is Prerna Preshika Lal. I'm alien number 203-128-987. I've never committed a crime. But I'm being deported away from my family.

It was a wrenchingly personal tweet from the Fijian-born 26-year-old, who for the past few years has been an outspoken advocate for legalizing undocumented youths brought here as minors, as she was at age 13. The message is also an example of one facet of a growing movement as more young people go public with their immigration status, relying on social media to build a network of support - and, in some cases, to help them stay in the country.

The day before Lal sent out her tweet, the social media website Mashable posted a piece on how student immigrant advocates have fought deportations with the help of social media, and won. The piece told the stories of a few young people who, through a network of advocacy groups and websites that grew around the Dream Act (including one spearheaded by Lal) have managed to stave off deportation, at least temporarily.


Readers respond: Has 'coming out' undocumented become less risky?

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A student's bold statement, December 8, 2010

A post yesterday on the trend among young, undocumented student activists and their supporters of revealing their immigration status, done as a political act, has drawn some interesting comments.

They were posted in response to a question: Has revealing immigration status truly become less risky for those who do it?

Recent statements from federal immigration officials have indicated that there's less of a priority being placed on deporting people who would have been eligible for the Dream Act, proposed legislation that failed in the Senate late last year, and which would have granted conditional legal status to young people brought here as minors who went to college or joined the military. Some youths in high-profile cases have had their deportation suspended. Is the risk of deportation for these young people who "come out" no longer so great?


Is 'coming out' undocumented becoming less risky?

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A couple of posts last month addressed a strategy that a growing number of undocumented youths have embraced as they campaign for legalization, revealing their immigration status as a political act.

It took off last year as undocumented college students campaigned for the Dream Act, proposed legislation that would have granted conditional legal status to young people brought here illegally as minors if they attended college or joined the military. The bill died in the Senate last December, but students and their supporters have not given up their campaign.

Some perceive "coming out" as equal parts catharsis and political strategy, and see the trend continuing. Here's how Jorge Gutierrez, a young man I spoke with last month, put it when I asked him if he saw revealing immigration status as becoming a cultural norm among his peers:


Is revealing immigration status the new 'coming out?'

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A student's shirt at a coming-out event in Orange County, March 10, 2011

What began as a small number of undocumented college students going public with their immigration status in recent years, done as a political act, has developed into a growing movement that embraces a term once synonymous with the gay rights movement: coming out.

During the past week, a national campaign mounted by student immigrant advocacy groups has urged students and other young people to reveal their status. Advocacy sites have solicited coming-out stories via social media and posted them. Student groups around the country have held coming-out events, including one last week in Orange County.

The movement began as a strategy to attach names and faces to the young people affected by the Dream Act, proposed federal legislation that would have granted conditional legal status to undocumented youths brought to this country before age 16 if they went to college, or if they joined the military.