How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

As the November election approaches, multiple 'Dream Acts' emerge

As November elections neared in 2010, the Democratic supporters of the immigration reform bill known as the Dream Act kicked into high gear, pushing it toward an eventual vote in the House and Senate that December.

The bill proposed conditional legal status for qualifying young people who arrived in the U.S. under age 16, provided they go to college or join the military. It didn't go anywhere in 2010, but as November nears and both major parties fight for Latino votes, expect the Democratic-backed bill to figure prominently again, along with a few stripped-down mutations as Republican lawmakers formulate alternative proposals.

How many "Dream Acts" are there? Here's the original plus a growing list of alternatives:

1) The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act: This is the original proposal last voted on in 2010. Various versions have come and gone since 2001. Originally a bipartisan proposal, its initial Republican backers have since dropped off. The bill failed to clear a Senate vote in December 2010, but a similar version was reintroduced last year by Senate Democrats. The bill would grant conditional legal status and a path to citizenship to undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. before age 16, so long as they attend college or join the military and meet other criteria. The proposed age cap for applicants is 35.


As Georgia considers ban on undocumented students, a wide gap in states' college policies

Photo by un.sospiro/Flickr (Creative Commons)

While obtaining a college education has become somewhat easier for undocumented students in California lately, it's becoming progressively more difficult in the South.

Georgia's state senate approved a bill this week that, if it becomes law, will make the state the third  after South Carolina and Alabama to ban undocumented students from attending public colleges and universities. Already, Georgia university officials had voted to bar these students from the state's top five universities, leading some professors in Athens, Georgia to create an underground teaching facility last year dubbed Freedom University.

There's a wide gap between what's been happening in South and what's been happening in the West. In California, for example, two new state laws allow undocumented students access to the state financial aid, as they have already in Texas and New Mexico (and to a lesser degree Illinois, which allows them access to private funding). And to fill in gaps, several Silicon Valley tycoons have joined forces to help fund a San Francisco nonprofit that provides scholarships, legal and career advice for undocumented students who arrived as minors.


It's a no-go for California Dream Act repeal effort

Screen shot from's Facebook page

It looks like the just-enacted California Dream Act is here to stay, at least until the next attempt at a ballot initiative to repeal it. The "Stop AB 131" campaign, spearheaded by Republican state Assembly member Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks, has announced that the effort failed to gather enough signatures in order to place a referendum on the November ballot.

According to the campaign's Facebook page, paid and volunteer signature-gatherers fell more than 57,000 signatures short of the 504,760 that were needed by yesterday's midnight deadline. The initiative would have mandated a repeal to a measure signed into law last year by Gov. Jerry Brown that provides financial aid for undocumented college students, making easier for them to pay tuition.


Top five immigration stories of 2011, #5: 'Coming out' undocumented

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A student activist's t-shirt, December 2010

This week, Multi-American is counting down its top five immigration stories of 2011. It's been a tough list to narrow down with so many major stories this year, ranging from the political battle over birthright citizenship early in the year to the ongoing record deportations to the growing number of state immigration laws, a story that's still developing as a case involving Arizona's precedent-setting SB 1070 heads to the U.S. Supreme Court.

We'll start out today with one story that didn't come out of government, though, but rather bubbled up slowly from college campuses and gained steam via social media: the trend of "coming out" as undocumented among young people, done as a political act.

What began a few years ago among a small number of undocumented student activists has developed into a movement its own right. By December of last year, growing numbers of young, undocumented college students and their supporters were publicly revealing their status as a previous version of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a bill that would grant conditional legal status to young people who arrived before age 16 if they went to college or joined the military, moved through the House and on to the Senate.


How will first- and second-generation young adults fare in college and beyond?

Photo by CSU Stanislaus Photo/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Youths and young adults between 16 and 26 from immigrant families now represent one in four people in the United States in this age group - up from one in five only 15 years ago, according to a new report. As they move through secondary and postsecondary education then on to the workplace, replacing older workers, how will they fare?

The Migration Policy Institute report takes a close look at what it terms "youth of immigrant origin," profiling foreign-born and U.S.-born young people between the ages of 16 and 26. The report notes, among other things, that between 2007 and 2010, a tipping point occurred in which the number of first-generation immigrants was eclipsed by that of the U.S.-born second generation. In 2010, there were 4.8 million first-generation immigrant youths ages 16 to 26 in the U.S., 2.8 million of whom arrived before they were 16.