How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Q&A: UCSD immigration expert Wayne Cornelius on why the Dream Act went down

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Participants in a vigil and rally for the Dream Act in downtown Los Angeles earlier this month

The defeat in the Senate last Saturday of the Dream Act, which would have granted conditional legal status to qualifying undocumented college students, graduates and military hopefuls who arrived here before age 16, was just the most recent action on a proposal that has been circulating for nearly a decade. And each time it has come up for a vote, UC San Diego's Wayne Cornelius has followed it, as he has every other federal immigration proposal that has come and gone since then.

Cornelius is one of the nation's leading scholars on immigration and U.S.-Mexico border issues, a political scientist and director emeritus of UCSD's Center for Comparative Immigration Studies. He is now associate director of the university's Center of Expertise on Migration and Health.

After years of observing the politics of immigration, Cornelius has his own take on why the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act failed this time around, in spite of unprecedented student activism and a streamlining of the bill that allowed it to clear the House. He shares his opinion on the Obama administration's strategy of pushing tough enforcement as a means to win support for broader immigration reform, a strategy he believes is doomed to fail.


In the news this morning: The 2010 Census and minorities, deportations raise questions, more

As U.S. becomes more diverse, Hispanics flourish - Reuters According to data emerging from the 2010 U.S. Census, Latinos are leading a transformation of the country, with ethnic and racial minorities expected to become the majority by mid-century.

Arturo Vargas: New Census Numbers Portend Significant Latino Role - Huffington Post The executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials on how the demographic changes stand to influence politics.

Obama talks immigration strategy with lawmakers - USA Today President Obama met this morning with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The administration says it is not giving up on an immigration reform bill, despite this weekend's defeat of the Dream Act.

Disparities in deportation program raise questions - The Washington Post Though the Obama administration has promised to focus its immigration enforcement efforts on criminals, a quarter of those who have been deported through a program called Secure Communities have no criminal record.


After the Dream Act vote, a few more good reads

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A sign at a Dream Act rally in Los Angeles last summer

With the amount of student activism surrounding it and the coverage it has received, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, otherwise known as the Dream Act, has perhaps been the biggest immigration story of 2010.

The bill, which would have provided conditional legal status for qualifying undocumented youths who attended college or joined the military, won House approval earlier this month but died during a Senate procedural vote Saturday morning, after falling five votes short of the necessary 60 needed for cloture.

And following its defeat, there has been no shortage of news, analysis, and discussion. Here are a few interesting items related to the bill that I've come across in the past couple of days:

  • The New York Times had a good analysis of how the Obama administration's tougher immigration policies - including a record number of deportations - failed to achieve the objective of winning over Republican support for the trade-off, i.e. a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system. The Dream Act was considered "the easiest piece to pass."

  • ColorLines had a feature on the student movement that helped make the Dream Act the story of the year, bringing new attention to proposed legislation that has circulated for nearly a decade. The hallmark of this activism has been undocumented students going public with their status, risking deportation in the process. "That the DREAM Act made it as far as it did in 2010 is a testament to a national, youth-led grassroots movement," the story reads.

  • The Atlantic Wire posted five different takes from five different pundits on the legislation, its defeat, and its political fallout. Call it a roundup within a roundup.

  • Latino Decisions pollster Matt Barreto wrote about how those who voted against the bill may have trouble with Latino voters in the next election. "As the 2012 election cycle takes shape, and the issues are defined and debated, it is unlikely that votes on the DREAM Act will be forgotten by Latino voters, 88% of whom supported the bill's passage," he wrote.

  • The U.S. Senate website lists the roll call of votes from Saturday. The votes (55 in favor, 41 against) fell mostly along partisan lines, although three Republicans voted for the bill, and five Democrats voted against it.


For Los Angeles, a 'multiplicity of corridos'

Art by Gajin Fujita, courtesy of LACMA

I didn't have a chance to make it to a performance Saturday afternoon by Ozomatli at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where the band performed the top entries in a contest seeking the "The Corrido of L.A." But the lyrics to several of the corrido entries are posted on LACMA's website (under "submissions"), and they're worth perusing.

The contest, a joint project between LACMA and the University of Southern California, was held in honor of the centennial of the Mexican revolution. Students in grades 7 to 12 from throughout the city were asked to submit songs written in the traditional Mexican narrative ballad style, in any language, that best captured the essence of Los Angeles.

Not surprisingly, many of the corridos submitted dealt with immigration, itself a central theme of Los Angeles. One 11th-grader from Boyle Heights' Roosevelt High School wrote a song about last summer's tragic massacre of Central and South American migrants in the northern Mexican border state of Tamaulipas. Several others wrote about the experience of undocumented immigrants. More than one entry among the top ten dealt with "el sueño Americano," the American dream.