How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Live to die another day:' With Senate Dream Act vote tabled, students go back to the phones

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UCLA graduate student Carlos Amador addresses media at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles following the Senate's vote to table to Dream Act until next week, December 9, 2010

The Senate's decision this morning to table a vote on the Dream Act was greeted with optimism and a bit of relief by Los Angeles students and graduates who celebrated the bill's victory in the House last night, after a long day of making calls to legislators for support. Now, they go back to the phones.

"Last night's vote in the House was an historic vote," said Carlos Amador, 27, an undocumented UCLA graduate student and one of the leaders among the local students pushing for the bill. As for the Senate, "we know it's a tough battle, but we know that we can make it."

Amador, along with other college students, graduates and Dream Act supporters, spoke to reporters at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, where dozens spent yesterday calling legislators from a makeshift phone bank.

Several of the students gathered again today to make more calls before the anticipated Senate vote. While a decisive vote was expected today, the Senate voted to table the measure until later this month, possibly next week.


Joy and tears as Dream Act clears House

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Students in Los Angeles react to news of the Dream Act victory in the House, December 8, 2010

Jubilant students in downtown Los Angeles reacted with joyful shouts and tears as they watched a C-SPAN broadcast with the results of the Dream Act vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, which just approved the measure.

A Senate vote is expected tomorrow. If the bill clears both chambers of Congress, the legislation will provide conditional legal status for undocumented youths who arrived here before age 16, provided they attend college or enlist in the military and that they meet strict criteria.

Dozens of students, many of them undocumented, manned the phones all day at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center next to McArthur Park, calling legislators for their support. Tonight, as the vote count was reported, excited students cheered, cried and hugged one another.

It's a tentative victory for them, and they are cautiously optimistic. So far, there has not been sufficient Republican support in the Senate for the bill to pass. The students will return to the center tomorrow at 7 a.m. to await the Senate vote, expected to take place in the morning.


Students wait as Senate Dream Act vote delayed until tomorrow, but House still votes tonight

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A homemade poster on the wall of the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, where about two dozen student activists are calling legislators and awaiting a vote on the Dream Act, December 8, 2010

The Senate won't be voting on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act now until tomorrow, according to a spokesman from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office. Meanwhile, the House continues to discuss the bill, with a vote still expected tonight.

For the college students and graduates who have been calling legislators all day from a makeshift call center in downtown Los Angeles, some since 6 a.m., waiting another day for the Senate to vote means another early morning. But those still around this afternoon at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center were unfazed, hoping the extra time might work in their favor. While the bill stands a chance of passing in the House, its prospects appear dim in the Senate, where more Republican votes are needed for cloture.

"Compromise needs to be realized," said Matias Ramos, 24, an undocumented UCLA graduate who now lives in Washington, D.C., where he works for a small Dream Act advocacy group. "That is the silver lining, that there may be a compromise."


As seen on a t-shirt

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A student's bold statement, December 8, 2010

Worn by a student in Los Angeles while awaiting a vote on the Dream Act, as the Senate takes up the measure this afternoon.

About two dozen college students and graduates have spent the morning making calls to legislators from a makeshift phone bank at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, across from McArthur Park.


From readers, thoughts on the Dream Act

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A poster on the wall of the UCLA Downtown Labor Center by McArthur Park, where about two dozen student activists are calling legislators and awaiting a vote on the bill, December 8, 2010

The upcoming Dream Act vote has generated by far the most reader comments in Multi-American's young history. Some readers have argued back and forth with one another on the proposed legislation. Others have simply posted their thoughts, in some cases hinting at their own personal stories. Here are a few comments, unedited.

Among the most impassioned is one that came in today at 3:21 a.m. from Stefanieromero17, who posted this:

All we want is an opportunity to become someone in this world. You have to also realize that many young Americans waist their life’s at a young age. They start doing drugs, young girls get pregnant and many other things. All we are asking for is Americas help. we aren’t saying that you or America owe us something. We do not take your jobs. We do the jobs that many many Americans refuse to do. I’m pretty sure you or most Americans will not work the fields and all we are asking for is to do better than our parents. Me like many other immigrants came here at a young age. To us this is our country we would do anything to get the opportunity to go to college and become someone. If it ever comes to it we would give our life’s to this country in a heart beat. Well this is all i have to say.