Thursday, July 11, 2013

The DREAMers are showing us how its done


I've written before about the most successful movement for change that we are witnessing in this country today...the DREAMers. As Tom Hayden said, they are reminiscent of successful movements in our past.
The Dreamers remind me of the Freedom Riders fifty years ago who, deciding they wouldn’t settle for life under Jim Crow, risked jail and racist violence until the Kennedy administration was won to their side, and a political party realignment began. The Dreamers have petitioned, engaged in civil disobedience, lobbied for legislation at state and federal levels, and refused to accept defeats along the way.
So I thought it might be helpful to take a look at what's going on here to see if we can learn some things from them. To start, I'd suggest that everyone go to the web site United We Dream and look around. From their mission statement:
United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation, a powerful nonpartisan network made up of 52 affiliate organizations in 25 states. We organize and advocate for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status. UWD’s current priority is to win citizenship for the entire undocumented community and end senseless deportations and abuses. We seek to address the inequities and obstacles faced by immigrant youth and believe that by empowering immigrant youth, we can advance the cause of the entire community—justice for all immigrants...

In 2012, we successfully pressured President Obama and won the deferred action policy—providing protection from deportation and work permits for young people without papers—and leading a diverse immigrant rights’ movement in our biggest success in over 25 years. In 2013 and beyond, our network has committed to relentlessly fight for our families and communities and win a roadmap to citizenship and fair treatment for all 11 million undocumented Americans. As we’ve proven, we have the power to redefine what is possible and win.
From this we learn that they are "youth-led" and that they are organized at the local level.  When the DREAM Act failed to pass Congress in 2010 due to Republican obstruction - they took their case directly to President Obama. The path they took is significant. They didn't by-pass Congress, that's where they started. Once they had built up public support for their cause and Congress failed to act, they'd given the President the room he needed to implement unilateral action.

I also think its important to note how specific they are in their goals - in contrast with groups like OWS. First it was the DREAM Act and now its a "roadmap to citizenship and fair treatment for all 11 million undocumented Americans." They have laid out their principles for reform and advocate for them tirelessly.

But what I have found most important is that - as the immigration reform bill has worked its way through the negotiations process - you have NOT heard these young people either give ultimatums (ie, "kill the bill" if it doesn't contain one item on the list) or trash particular politicians for their positions. They seem extremely savvy about the sausage-making process of legislation and have stayed out of those shenanigans. I suspect that in doing so, they've been able to keep their eye on the ball and know that this is a long-term struggle that likely won't get completely solved with one bill.

Following in the footsteps of the late Harvey Milk, the DREAMers have had the courage to "come out of the closet" as undocumented and risk both the legal and social consequences of doing so. Their motto is "Undocumented and Unafraid." That has allowed them to stage effective actions like this to highlight their cause.


And to take it to Congress like this.


I find it fascinating that so many people on the left are mostly ignoring this amazing movement and the young people who are leading it. To me, this is what organizing for change looks like in our country today. When the history books are written, it will be the DREAMers who are credited with winning this battle and all those "keyboard activists" will likely still be yelling at each other on the internet.

2 comments:

  1. Well, of course the DREAMers should be the ones getting credit in the history books.

    The only way change has ever come about in this country is through organizing. Yes, activism can bring awareness, but once you've got everybody's attention, then what?

    ReplyDelete
  2. "But what I have found most important is that - as the immigration reform bill has worked its way through the negotiations process - you have NOT heard these young people either give ultimatums (ie, "kill the bill" if it doesn't contain one item on the list) or trash particular politicians for their positions. They seem extremely savvy about the sausage-making process of legislation and have stayed out of those shenanigans. I suspect that in doing so, they've been able to keep their eye on the ball and know that this is a long-term struggle that likely won't get completely solved with one bill."

    Exactly. It is no coincidence that immigrants are doing what the native-born keyboard activists refuse to understand: know how the system works, know your rights, and know exactly what your goal is. That's what it takes for an immigrant (documented or otherwise) to survive and thrive in this country.

    ReplyDelete