Contest Over the DREAM Act for Immigration Intensifies at a Brooklyn Rally
/ The Examiner
Both sides of the immigration debate are mobilizing in response to the upcoming congressional vote on the DREAM Act, which would open up a track to US citizenship for immigrant youths.
The DREAM Act is an 8 year old piece of legislation that would grant legal residents to immigrants between the ages of 18 and 35 who graduated from high school and have either acquired an associates degree or served for two years in the military. Such measures would recognize the valuable national resource presented by these hard working young people. The Act has been continuously opposed by Republicans and moderate Democrats who fear it will encourage an increase in illegal immigration. Preempting the loss of legislative control to Republican next year, House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would bring the DREAM Act to a vote on November 29th.
A rally in Brooklyn on November 21st featured several politicians in support of the Dream Act, pontificating their stances and energizing their supporters for further action over the coming weeks. Nydia Velasquez, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, urged the audience to call their representatives. This rhetoric is problematic in that Velasquez has not yet co-sponsored the Act herself. llinois Representative Luis Gutiérrez also spoke at the rally, lauding the grassroots and bureaucratic work behind the Act but often focusing on other measures and the immigration struggle in general. While the politicians presented themselves as optimistic, it seems they do not anticipate success.
The Sunday rally was organized by the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and Make the Road NY, two groups dedicated to the DREAM Act. Also present were the activists of the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC), who have supported the Act with hunger strikes and grassroots organizing. The tension between the non-profits and the student organization was explicit in the banners held by students criticizing the politicians and the "sign searches" conducted by the non-profits to censor these messages. The NYSYLC clearly does not want any compromise on this measure while the non-profits see this as a brief moment in a longer struggle. The NYIC has often criticized the NYSYLC for dividing the movement even as the students' expressions are marginalized.
Opposition to the DREAM Act is also mobilizing. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama has criticized the Act for allowing aliens who benefit to sponsor their parents and extended families, effectively opening an already saturated labor market to new workers. "I don't think in this economy that this is a very happy time to be doing that," he said. The group Americans for Legal Immigration is inflating fear and pushing for a calling campaign to defeat the Act while the NYIC is organizing a calling campaign to support the Act. Representatives will be hearing a lot from both these groups on Monday when the Act goes before Congress. On the same day the NYSYLC will be holding a rally at 47th St and Broadway, galvanizing their supporters and criticizing the bureaucratic maneuvers.
"Today, with 12,600 dues-paying members, MRNY is a unique amalgam of worker center, legal clinic, citizenship school, mutual aid society, policy shop, protest factory and church. Its four offices in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island are an egalitarian oasis for members, who gather there for conversation and classes..."