How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Undocumented and afraid, part 1

Photo by Bryan Goseline/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Students taking in a lecture, October 2007

Much has been written lately about the college students who are coming out about their immigration status in support of the DREAM Act, proposed legislation that would allow undocumented students like themselves, or those who join the military, a path to legal status if they meet several criteria, including having arrived in the United States as minors under 16.

But for every one of those students, there are are many others who are afraid to come forward.

A couple of months ago, a colleague here at KPCC passed along an e-mail that came in response to immigration-related questions posed via the station's Public Insight Network, a project that gives the public a confidential way to share personal stories related to topics in the news. The e-mail, written by a young man in Claremont, caught my attention: He was a college student who had been here since childhood, he was undocumented, and he felt hopeless.

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The art of the DREAM Act movement

Art courtesy of Julio Salgado

Libertad, the heroine of Julio Salgado's "Liberty for All" comic strip

ColorLines has posted a collection of art inspired by the DREAM Act, the proposed legislation pending a vote in Congress that would allow qualifying college students and military recruits who are undocumented to obtain conditional legal status.

While various versions of the bill have been circulating for nearly a decade, the DREAM Act's latest round through the legislative system has inspired a full-blown student movement. College students, many of them undocumented, have staged rallies, sit-ins, hunger strikes and caravans to the nation's capital. Several have come out publicly about their status to make a statement, including prominent student leaders. And the movement, in turn, has inspired art in the form of posters, fliers, even an comic strip.

In September, shortly before a defense bill that carried the DREAM Act was voted down in the Senate, I interviewed cartoonist Julio Salgado, an undocumented twentysomething Cal State Long Beach journalism student. Salgado's online comic strip, “Liberty for All,” follows the story of a young woman who arrived with her family illegally as a child, has finished college, but can’t get a regular job because of her status. The comic has become popular with college students pushing for the legislation.

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In the news this morning: DREAM Act updates, Tequila Party, a New Mexico hate crime, more

15 charged over immigration protest in San Antonio - Houston Chronicle The arrests took place during a demonstration by supporters of the DREAM Act, proposed federal legislation that would provide access to legalization for undocumented youths who go to college or join the military.


'Tequila Party' proposal gains international attention - Nevada Wonk - Las Vegas Sun Until recently just something that was being quietly debated, the idea of a "Tequila Party" coalition of pro-immigration reform Latinos is out of the bag after extensive news coverage.


ACLU names Hector Villagra to replace Ramona Ripston as Southern California director - 89.3 KPCC Villagra, 42, is the son of immigrants from Argentina and Cuba. Among other things, he spent spent time as a staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Project.

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Audio from today's Patt Morrison show: The DREAM Act and student activism

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A sign outside a DREAM Act rally in Los Angeles last summer.

In recent weeks I've posted several stories and updates related to the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow a path to legal status for undocumented young people who attend college or enlist in the military. A House vote is expected soon, possibly later this week.

Part of the reason that the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which has been introduced and failed several times over the course of nearly a decade, is getting so much attention this time is because of unprecedented activism among the very undocumented students it would benefit.

During previous DREAM Act vote cycles, the bulk of these youths remained in the shadows. But since the bill was introduced again last year, a growing number of students who have been here illegally since they were children have been coming out publicly about their immigration status to make a statement in support of the bill, attaching their names and faces to it, and generating publicity. Some have risked arrest and deportation by participating in rallies and sit-ins; others have stuck their necks out as well-known student leaders.

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A DREAM Act vote is coming, but when?

Photo courtesy of Cyndi Bendezu

Student protesters at a DREAM Act "die-in" in downtown Los Angeles, November 17, 2010

Speculation that the U.S. House of Representatives might take up the DREAM Act early this week - even as early as today, as some outlets had reported - turned out to be a bit premature.

The earliest date now being discussed for a possible House vote on the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is this coming Thursday, said Frank Sharry, executive director of the Washington, D.C. immigration advocacy group America's Voice, which has been following the proposed legislation closely.

It's also likely that a House vote could take longer, Sharry said in a phone interview today. A blurb two weeks ago on CapitolWirePR cited New York Democratic Rep. Nydia Velasquez as saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had announced a tentative vote date of Nov. 29.

That date was a misquote, Sharry said. However, the hope of advocates is still that the House will vote on the measure first, he said, as this could help pave the way for success in the Senate. While there still no set date for a Senate vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to take up the measure in the lame duck session. The DREAM Act would provide access to legal status for qualifying young people who attend college or enlist in the military.

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