How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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.


From readers, more thoughts on the Dream Act

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

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

Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion on the Dream Act this weekend, after Saturday's procedural vote in the Senate. I spent the morning with a group of students and other supporters as they made last-minute calls to legislators and watched the vote take place on C-SPAN, posting updates as the voting proceeded. The bill fell five votes short of the 60 needed for cloture, with 55 senators voting for it and 41 against, mostly along partisan lines.

After it was over, Multi-American readers posted comments in what became a rather heated debate. Here's an excerpt from one typical back-and-forth, unedited.

Argentinachick13 wrote:

I’m 17 years old. I came to this country when I was 6 years old. I’m a Junior in Highschool, good grades, never got in trouble by cops. The one thing I want, and that I’m missing? A future. I want to go to college, I want a career, I want an opportunity. Yes I was born in another country (Argentina) but I grew up here, I made friends here, I have a life here, I’m going the right path for a good future. I can’t just throw all my hard work, dedication, and friends away and go back to Argentina and having to start all over again.

Just because I was born somewhere else, doesn’t make me less of a person. I’m still a human being, who wants to get somewhere in life. I was watching the debate this morning. I had tears in my eyes because we were short of 5 points. And I ask myself, what’s going to happen now? Hopefully the selfish senates will make the right decision and not think of themselves for a chage, and let other people have an opportunity too. can only hope.


In the news this morning: The Dream Act defeat, a custody battle over an immigrant workers' son, Latino voters in Compton and more

Students look to 2012 after immigration bill fails - The Washington Post After months of activism in hopes of passing the Dream Act, which would have granted conditional legal status to undocumented students and military hopefuls, students were disappointed by the bill's failure in the Senate Saturday, but say they aren't giving up.

Immigration Vote Leaves Obama Policy in Disarray - The New York Times The defeat of the Dream Act, which failed to win sufficient Republican votes, makes evident that the Obama administration's approach of ramping up worksite and border enforcement has failed to win GOP support for a broader immigration overhaul.

Heart-wrenching fight for immigrant's son - CNN The legal fight over custody of a 4-year-old boy who was adopted after his mother, a Guatemalan citizen, was arrested during a worksite raid at a poultry processing plant.