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Undocumented Students as Organizers: Pushing the 'DREAM' Act


While the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or "DREAM," Act has been introduced numerous times and then stalled in Congress, students who would benefit from the measure have been organizing, using social-networking tools to do so. The proposed act was last introduced March 26 in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It would provide a path to legalization for undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college or serve in the military for two years.


Education Week Assistant Director of Photography Christopher Powers and I reported for edweek.org on how several hundred immigrant youths, many of them undocumented, participated in a mock graduation ceremony here in the nation's capital yesterday and called for passage of the DREAM Act.

The National Council of La Raza and other organizations that are part of a coalition called United We DREAM put on the event. The masters of ceremonies were two students who are active in organizations run by undocumented students that have sprung up since a version of the proposed legislation was first considered by Congress in 2001. Lizbeth, from California, represented Dream Team L.A. as a master of ceremony. Mohammad, from Michigan, represented DreamActivist.org. They seemed completely comfortable in front of a mike and led the students in a chant, "What do we want? The Dream Act. When do we want it? NOW."

I met an undocumented immigrant at yesterday's event who I'd seen at another function. His first name is Jong-Min, and he's a native of South Korea. He talked about his life as an undocumented youth at a conference I attended at Brown University in March. Then, he spoke about how after he graduated from college with a sociology degree in 2003, he couldn't put his education to use because of his undocumented status. So he returned to the underground economy and was working at his parent's grocery store in New York City.

I asked him yesterday if he was still working in the grocery store, and he said "yes."

It was a warm summer day, and he was wearing his black graduation robe from his college graduation in 2003. "You must feel really hot in that robe," I told him.

"For this, I'd do anything," he said, stressing the importance of trying to get the DREAM Act passed.

These undocumented youths-turned-activists have taken to calling themselves "DREAMers."

Critics of the proposal, though, see it as a form of amnesty for people who have disobeyed the nation's laws.

Photo Credit: Christopher Powers/Education Week


I wish I could have attended the Dream Graduation in Los Angeles. I was there in spirit and support. DREAM ACT 09'.

Well, it is amnesty for the children of those who have disobeyed our laws, Why are those of us whose relatives DID go thru legal citizenship when they immigrated to America reviled when we expect the same from others? The diversity of cultures is what has made America great--but when people come here illegally and have little or no understanding of our laws or democracy, it is destructive to that very democracy.
How'd the student mentioned get all the way thru to college graduate? With his level of education, why doesnt' he go thru the legal channel to obtain citizenship?

The legal channels... well the way the laws are currently written the student whom wanted his citizenship would be required to leave the country for 10 years. He would have to legally apply for his citizenship outside of the US and if or when he leaves the US he will be required to remain outside of the US for 10 years.

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