One day after the Supreme Court ruled to uphold Arizona’s “show me your papers” law, hundreds of undocumented immigrants traveled to Washington, D.C., from as far as Texas, compelled by passion and a desire for equal rights in America.
Over 300 dream activists, symbolically dressed in caps and gowns, showed up at the Lutheran Church of The Reformation, Tuesday, to attend a mock graduation ceremony, before taking part in a day of march to the United States Supreme Court and legislative offices urging Senators and House Representatives to act on immigration reform and passage of the DREAM Act.
Diplomas in hand, undocumented youth joined families, lawyers, educators, faith leaders, and advocates, with the Capitol dome behind them, chanting and holding signs that read: “This is my home” and “Obama is my mom next?”
The group is only a small sampling of the over 2 million immigrant youth who were brought to the United States as children and now live here without legal immigration status. They join a growing group of youth – called DREAMers -- who have been participating in national “coming out” actions calling for comprehensive immigration reform. DREAMer is a reference to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
The “Dream Graduation,” is an annual event that is held to symbolize the undocumented youth who graduate from U.S. high schools each year and may not have the opportunity to attend college or to walk across a college graduation stage.
Monday’s Supreme Court’s ruling on SB 1070 is significant to this year’s mock graduation because it represents the basic human rights and dignity that they are all fighting for.
One thing that resonated throughout the commencement speeches on Tuesday is that they have learned that the best way to get politicians to support them is to let them listen to their stories, so they use events like these mock graduation ceremonies as a platform to train and encourage other undocumented youth to do join the movement.
Mohammad Abdollahi, came to the United States with his family when he was only three. The 26 year old made headlines in 2010 when he was arrested for protesting for passage of the DREAM Act in Tucson, Arizona. As a member of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance and the founder of DreamActivist.org, he says that the annual mock graduation is hosted to show other undocumented youth that they have support across state lines, “At the end of the day, our goal is to empower the undocumented community from all across the country and to show them that our struggle really the same whether we live in Michigan, Indiana, Georgia or North Carolina.”
In 2010 the DREAM Act had majority approval in both the U.S. House and the Senate, but failed to get past a threatened filibuster by Senate Republicans.
Last year, the administration gave immigration officials "prosecutorial discretion" to review cases on a one-by-one basis.
In June, The American Immigration Lawyers Association released a statement declaring Obama’s signature “achievement” on immigration a “failure.” At the same time, The National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) has worked on over 70 cases in the last month of people who are eligible for prosecutorial discretion.
Nationally, only one percent of all cases were stopped under prosecutorial discretion. None have been saved by the policy.
Just two days before President Barack Obama's announcement that the Department of Homeland Security would no longer seek the deportation of eligible undocumented youth, NIYA activated its network to stage sit in at Democratic campaign offices across the country pressing the president to issue an executive order to stop DREAMer deportations.
Some undocumented young people view the move as a direct result of their years of organizing and consider it step forward, but they also feel it necessary to continue to push for the Dream Act.
Undocumented youth like Jose Rico, an active member of the North Carolina DREAM Team, said that they would continue to press legislators to make sure that the new policy is properly implemented. Several North Carolina DREAMers, met with Senator Kay Hagan’s (D-NC), Washington, DC office on Tuesday morning to rally for support of the DREAM Act, “Every time we discuss the DREAM Act with Senator Hagan, she seems really receptive, but she hasn’t pulled through,” Rico said.
Tuesday’s demonstration near the U.S. Supreme Court was followed with Deferred Action Workshop lead by law firm, Benach Ragland LLP and was organized by The National Immigrant Youth Alliance, a national undocumented youth-led network committed to achieving equality for all undocumented youth.