How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Students wait as Senate Dream Act vote delayed until tomorrow, but House still votes tonight

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A homemade poster on the wall of the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, where about two dozen student activists are calling legislators and awaiting a vote on the Dream Act, December 8, 2010

The Senate won't be voting on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act now until tomorrow, according to a spokesman from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office. Meanwhile, the House continues to discuss the bill, with a vote still expected tonight.

For the college students and graduates who have been calling legislators all day from a makeshift call center in downtown Los Angeles, some since 6 a.m., waiting another day for the Senate to vote means another early morning. But those still around this afternoon at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center were unfazed, hoping the extra time might work in their favor. While the bill stands a chance of passing in the House, its prospects appear dim in the Senate, where more Republican votes are needed for cloture.

"Compromise needs to be realized," said Matias Ramos, 24, an undocumented UCLA graduate who now lives in Washington, D.C., where he works for a small Dream Act advocacy group. "That is the silver lining, that there may be a compromise."

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As seen on a t-shirt

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A student's bold statement, December 8, 2010

Worn by a student in Los Angeles while awaiting a vote on the Dream Act, as the Senate takes up the measure this afternoon.

About two dozen college students and graduates have spent the morning making calls to legislators from a makeshift phone bank at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, across from McArthur Park.

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Waiting for a Dream Act vote

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Students at a makeshift call center downtown watch C-SPAN as they make final calls to legislators urging support for the Dream Act, December 8, 2010

Students are gathered at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center this morning to make last-minute calls to legislators and await a vote on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would grant conditional legal status to qualifying undocumented youths who attend college or join the military.

House and Senate votes are expected today; a Senate vote, which had been expected this morning, has been moved up to mid-afternoon Eastern time.

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A candlelit rally in L.A. as Dream Act vote nears

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Participants in a vigil and rally for the Dream Act in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night, December 7, 2010

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Participants in a vigil and rally for the Dream Act in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night, December 7, 2010

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Participants in a vigil and rally for the Dream Act in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night, December 7, 2010

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Participants in a vigil and rally for the Dream Act in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night, December 7, 2010

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Participants in a vigil and rally for the Dream Act in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night, December 7, 2010


With a vote on the Dream Act expected as early as tomorrow, enthusiasm mixed with jangled nerves tonight at a candlelight rally held by supporters in downtown Los Angeles.

Close to two hundred people showed up outside La Placita Church near Olvera Street, some wearing caps and gowns, many holding votives and picket signs. Clergy leaders that included Cardinal Roger Mahony, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, led participants in prayer.

"We are walking with you, and we will be with you until this is accomplished," Mahony told the crowd.

It may take a while. A vote on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would grant conditional legal status to undocumented youths who attend college or join the military, could take place in both the Senate and the House as early as tomorrow. However, chances appears slim for the proposed legislation. This is particularly true in the Senate, where it has failed to win the necessary Republican support to pass, even after a tightened version of the bill was introduced last week.

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A sneak peek at one 'Corrido of L.A.' entry

Art by Gajin Fujita, courtesy of LACMA

In late September, I wrote about an unusual songwriting contest for the "The Corrido of L.A."

The contest, put together by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the University of Southern California, encouraged 7th through 12th-grade students from throughout the city to write and submit songs in the traditional Mexican narrative ballad style that best captured the essence of Los Angeles, in any language. Contest judges would include the band Ozomatli, which was to perform the top ten entries in a concert this month.

The deadline for submissions was in mid-November, and since then, KCET's website has provided a sneak peek at one of the songs submitted. The station's Departures hyper-local project recently posted audio and video from a group of students at the Los Angeles Leadership Academy who, calling themselves Los Geekz, have produced a haunting, stylized rap about urban life in "the sickest part of Cali," as they put it. The group calls the piece "Change is Coming," and while it sounds nothing like traditional corrido, no matter.

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