THE DREAM ACT FRONT AND CENTER
The Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) and the Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana make a call for full support for the students and youth who are demonstrating courage in the struggle for legislation that they interpret will provide them an option to obtain legal immigration status. The legislation is the Dream Act, which proposes to permit those students and youth who arrived to the U.S. at an early age without legal status, and have completed high school, the option to apply for legal status while attending college or serving some branch of the U.S. military.
Notwithstanding many concerns with the legislation raised by many organizations nationally, particularly those that oppose mandatory military service, obligatory military registration, the draft, and the use of the military, and war, to resolve international disputes, MAPA and HERMANDAD go on record in support of the youth who are defining their own options through courageous acts of political/civic action.
The Dream Act is not without controversy, however, and both MAPA and HERMANDAD have raised concerns about the legislation since the beginning. The original version of the Dream Act was actually the best in that it did not include military service as an option to obtain legal status, but instead listed the pursuit of higher education, which included vocational, and community service as the criteria to qualify for eligibility.
It is now no secret that the Pentagon had a hand in fashioning later versions of the legislation with the willing help of congressional legislators. Historically people of color have been easy prey for conscription, the draft, and even the “all-voluntary” military service considering the financial inducements on the one hand, and the dire poverty statistics of these communities on the other. The various branches of the U.S. military have experienced increasing difficulty in meeting their goals for recruitment, and in the face of multiple wars of a prolonged character, the military is hard-pressed to find sufficient willing adherents to its brassy and provocative slogans like “BE ALL YOU CAN BE.”
It should also be acknowledged that the vast majority of immigrant youth, particularly Latino, do not and will not attend college (less than 10 percent), nearly 30 percent do not complete high school, and less than 40 percent who enter college do not complete the instructional program with a degree. These are horrific statistics on the down-side of this social dynamic that cannot and should not be ignored when we are considering immigration-related legislation to address the issue of legal status of our youth and family members.
It is for these reasons that MAPA and HERMANDAD only conditionally support the Dream Act, and advocate for the cleansing of the bill of its military service clause, or minimally return the community service option as an integral part of the legislation. When people talk of choice in the Dream Act, but ignore the statistics indicated above, and leave out of the legislation other viable alternatives such as community service to permit a path to legalization, in reality they are opposed to real choice and real options.
For now, however, we are called upon to support our youth and students who are defining the struggle for options by their courageous actions while we continue the debate about the best form of the Dream Act that should be enacted by the U.S. Congress.
Nativo Vigil Lopez
ICE Releases Undocumented Youth Leaders Detained at McCain’s Office Pushing for DREAM Act
Tucson, Arizona — On the night of May 18th the three undocumented youth leaders detained for staging a sit-in at Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) office in Tucson, Arizona were field released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They will remain in Arizona supporting local and national organizing for passing the DREAM Act before the end of June.
On May 17th, Mohammad Abdollahi of Michigan, Yahaira Carrillo of Kansas, Tania Unzueta of Chicago, Raul Alcaraz of Arizona, and Lizbeth Mateo of California, staged a sit-in at Senator John McCain’s office, calling on him and congressional leadership to take action and pass the DREAM Act. After 7 and a half hours, Mohammad, Yahaira, Raul, and Lizbeth were arrested by the Tucson Police Department, and they spent the night at the Pima County Jail. Tania Unzueta left the office to speak to reporters, stating that she had been designated the spokesperson for the group.
On May 18th, all four entered not-guilty to trespassing charges and were assigned a June 16th court date. Raul Alcaraz, a lawful permanent resident, was released on the condition that he would appear at the June 16th court date. The other three youth were expecting release but were instead detained and processed by ICE. That same night Mohammad, Yahaira, and Lizbeth were issued a field released supervision by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). They are facing federal charges of trespassing, and will be fighting their deportation proceedings.
“We are relieved to be released from ICE, however our hearts go out to all of the DREAM beneficiaries we made while we were being detained, all of whom were deported because they did not have the same support we did. We ask that leaders within both the Senate and our communities take the same stand we did and push for the DREAM Act to become a reality this year,” said Mohammad. “Senator Stabenow (D- MI), you are one of these leaders, recognize my dream and my friends dreams and co-sponsor the DREAM Act. Enough is enough,” he concluded.
Despite the fact that three of them are facing imminent deportation, Mohammad, Yahaira, Lizbeth, Tania, and Raul remain committed to passing the DREAM Act and establishing it as a standard for reform based on education, hard work, and fairness.
Upon release, Yahaira stated “We decided to own our power and make our voices heard. While we are glad to be out, remember that this action was not and is not about us as individuals. It is imperative for all to continue to push the DREAM Act, to work like we’ve never worked before and make this a reality this summer. We’ve surpassed the days of sitting idly by while others make decisions for us, while others tell us to wait. We cannot wait. Waiting is no longer a option. The DREAM Act must pass and it must pass now.”
The student’s detention sparked the organizing of solidarity vigils, hunger strikes, an civil disobedience actions across the country focused on pushing legislators to step up and take leadership in making the DREAM Act a reality. Upcoming actions are planned nationally.
“We want to thank everyone in Arizona and all over the country, especially the youth, who continue to stand by our side. Passing the DREAM Act is an urgent issue and thousands of young lives and their futures are at stake. Our action is only an example of the kind of sacrifices our movement of undocumented youth is willing to make in order to pass the DREAM Act immediately. We cannot live on hope alone, we need the DREAM Act and we need it now.”
Tania Unzueta, who has been acting as spokesperson for the group concluded, “If our three friends can face the ultimate fear of deportation to show their commitment to passing DREAM, our community and leaders must ask themselves what they are willing to do.”
This action was an independent undocumented youth- led project supported by DreaActivist.Org, DREAM Team LA, Kansas/ Missouri Dream Alliance, the Immigrant Youth Justice League, One Michigan, the Indiana Latino Youth Collective, and New York State Youth Leadership Council. For videos, media and more information visit www.thedreamiscoming.com.
Nativo V. Lopez
Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana
611 W. Civic Center Drive
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Fax: (714) 541-4597
Join us in this prolonged campaign for driver’s licenses and visas for our families. The first step in making change is to join an organization that pursues the change we desire. We welcome you to our ranks. Other organizations leading this movement include: Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana, Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), MAPA Youth Leadership, Southern California Immigration Coalition, Liberty and Justice for Immigrants Movement, National Alliance for Immigrant’s Rights, and immigrant’s rights coalitions throughout the U.S.. CONTACT:
Nativo V. Lopez, National President of MAPA (323) 269-1575