How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'It didn't happen today:' Dream Act fails, but supporters vow to keep trying

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

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

The Dream Act, which would have granted conditional legal status to certain undocumented youths who attend at least two years of college or join the military, fell five votes short of the 60 votes needed for cloture in the Senate. There were 55 votes in favor and 41 votes against.

College students and graduates, many of them undocumented, and other supporters spent the morning making last-minute calls to legislators and anxiously watching the vote take place on C-SPAN at the offices of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, an immigrant rights advocacy organization.

There were tears and visible anguish as the final vote tally was called. Supporters watching the vote knew that the bill, approved last week in the House, faced an uphill slog in the Senate, where it lacked Republican support. Still, many held on to a sliver of hope that it might win enough votes for cloture. They also knew it was the last chance for the bill to stand any chance of success in the near future. A more conservative Congress arrives in January, and any immigration bills that are not enforcement-related face even dimmer prospects during the next two years.

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Waiting for the Dream Act vote

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Two Dream Act supporters make last-minute calls to legislators this morning at the offices of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, December 18, 2010

A vote on the Dream Act is expected shortly in the Senate. The bill would grant conditional legal status to undocumented youths who attend college or join the military, provided they arrived in the United States before age 16 and meet other strict criteria. Supporters, many of them college students and graduates, have been making calls to legislators this morning before the vote takes place.

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The L.A. Corridos are here at last

Since late September, Los Angeles students in grades 7 through 12 have been composing corridos - some traditional, some not - as part of a contest seeking “The Corrido of L.A.," a song written in the traditional Mexican narrative ballad style that best captures the essence of the city. The contest was a joint project between the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the University of Southern California, held to commemorate the centennial of the Mexican Revolution.

The entries are in, and celebrity judges Ozomatli are scheduled to perform the winning songs at LACMA tomorrow. A story on the contest yesterday by KPCC's Alex Cohen featured two videos, including the above entry titled "Dreaming of a City" by 8th-grader Lyla Matar.

She also interviewed Ozomatli's bassist Wil-dog Abers along with Josh Kun, director of The Popular Music Project at USC Annenberg's The Norman Lear Center. Ozomatli will be performing "The Corrido of LA" in a free concert from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday in LACMA's Bing Theater.

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Before the vote, a few good Dream Act reads

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A homemade poster on the wall of the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, where student activists gathered last week to call legislators before the House vote on the Dream Act, December 8, 2010

With a Senate vote on the Dream Act now in the works for tomorrow morning, there is no shortage of reading material pertaining to the bill, which would grant conditional legal status to undocumented youths who either attend college or join the military, provided they arrived here before age 16 and meet other strict criteria.

A recent version of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was approved by the House last week, and a procedural vote on that version is anticipated tomorrow morning in the Senate.

In spite of unprecedented student activism and popular support (a recent Gallup poll showed a narrow majority of respondents in approval), its chances of success in the Senate are slim: As of yet, there is insufficient Republican support for the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. The Senate is also expected to vote tomorrow on the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military.

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