How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Coming out' undocumented: A Dream Act strategy becomes a rite of passage

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC


Last week in Orange County, a line of about two dozen young people snaked around the side of a meeting hall. Mostly college students, they awaited their turn at the podium in the front of the room. Some looked confident, others a little shaky. A girl with long brown hair stepped up to the microphone. "Hello, my name is Estefania," she began, "and I'm undocumented and unafraid."

What started as a small number of students going public with their immigration status grew into a movement in its own right last year, when passage of the federal Dream Act seemed like a possibility. It was a political strategy, the idea behind it to put a face to those whose lives would be affected by the legislation, which would have granted conditional legal status to qualifying young people brought to this country before age 16 if they went to college or joined the military.

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More Dream Act students prepare to 'come out'

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Student Dream Act supporters react after the Senate vote tally is read, December 18, 2010

This week, some undocumented students, graduates and others are expected to reprise the actions of other student activists last year with a risky move: going public with their immigration status.

The strategy gained popularity last year among young supporters of the Dream Act, proposed legislation that would have granted conditional legal status to qualifying young people who attend college or join the military. The measure cleared the House last December, but failed to make it through the Senate.

This year, several Dream Act advocacy groups and websites have been promoting what's being called "National Coming Out of the Shadows" week between March 14-21, kicking off with a "coming out" day this Thursday, March 10. Sites like DreamActivist.org have been seeking coming-out stories via Twitter and posting them. From one posted today:

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