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DREAMers Lay Out Action Plan for Moving Nation Forward on Immigration Reform

Jose_Vargas.jpg

Jose Antonio Vargas speaking at Campus Progress' National Conference (CPNC 2011) about his work as a journalist.

CREDIT: Campus Progress

With caps, gowns and slogans like “Right to education! Right to DREAM!” at the ready, a group of more than 40 young and undocumented immigrants gathered for a press conference last Wednesday in Washington D.C. to outline steps they plan to take following President Obama’s June 15 quasi-enactment of the DREAM Act.

United We Dream, a national education and citizenship advocacy network led by immigrant youth, called the meeting at the office of the nation’s largest labor federation to announce its new community engagement push — an effort the organization’s Education Not Deportation project coordinator Gaby Pacheco described as “a massive educational campaign on the web and on the ground.”

“We belong in this nation … we come to you as DREAMers, we come to you as Americans, we come to you as aspiring citizens,” Pacheco said. The young activist, who first attracted national attention by leading a march from Miami to Washington in 2010, added that she hopes the media can spread “the good news” about the federal government’s shift in policy to any one they believe might fit the criteria for deferred deportation.

The still-fresh decision left many members of the undocumented community “in shock,” said Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist and DREAMer advocate Jose Antonio Vargas.

Vargas first came out about his undocumented status in a New York Times Magazine essay published a little more than a year ago, and now makes regular media appearances to discuss the issue, In last Tuesday’s episode of “The O’Reilly Factor.” which featured Vargas, conservative television personality Bill O’Reilly declared his support for a pathway to citizenship for those who fit the DREAMer mold.

Fresh from his conversation with O’Reilly, Vargas said he now plans to speak with top conservatives, including Speaker of the House John Boehner (R – OH).

Erika Andiola, a United We Dream board member, said she believes the issue of undocumented immigrants’ futures is one which will sway American voters concerned for neighbors, friends and loved ones who are undocumented.

“I’m sure that they will go out and vote for us,” Andiola who shared a story about how the voting Latino community in her hometown, Mesa, Arizona, came together to vote in overwhelming numbers in the 2010 elections to support undocumented Arizonans like herself.

Obama's move to defer deportation for close to 1 million undocumented DREAM-eligible young immigrants recieved some legal validation today in The Supreme Court's' ruling on Arizona's controversial SB 1070.

From the decision:

Discretion in the enforcement of immigration law embraces immediate human concerns.  Unauthorized workers trying to support their families, for example, likely pose less danger than alien smugglers or aliens who commit a serious crime. The equities of an individual case may turn on many factors, including whether the alien has children born in the United States, long ties to the community, or a record of distinguished military service.

What results UWD’s programs and continued campaigning will win remains to be seen, but for Mariella Saavedra, a graduate student at Columbia University involved with the advocacy effort, said all steps must lead to comprehensive immigration reform.

“We want this for our families,” Saavedra explained.

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