Back in 2008, candidate Barack Obama called the DREAM Act, "something we could do right away" to clear up some basic injustices in this country. He argued passionately for the need to provide a path to citizenship for young people, like Ricardo Muñiz, who had been brought to the U.S. through no fault of their own.
Where's the DREAM Act now? In 2010, after passing out of the U.S. House of Representatives and gaining a majority of votes in the Senate, it was blocked by a Republican filibuster. In 2011, many states are fighting battles over local versions of the bill, Barack Obama is again campaigning on the DREAM Act, and Sarah Palin is busy slamming it (at Ellis Island no less). Senator Durbin (D-IL) has re-introduced it, alongside thirty of his colleagues in the Senate, but the common-sense legislation faces a rocky fate in this Congress.
More importantly than where the DREAM Act is, perhaps, are where the DREAMers are -- the hundreds of thousands of young people who would be eligible to earn their citizenship through completing two years of college or military service. The young leaders of the DREAM Act movement are still working hard to build support for DREAM, but they are busy fighting off anti-immigrant legislation in Georgia and across the country. At the same time, these youth are increasingly getting swept up in the federal government's aggressive deportation dragnet, whether through Bush-era programs like 287(g) or the controversial "Secure Communities" fingerprint-sharing program, which has been expanded by President Obama and which New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo just decided to freeze.
This means communities across the country are having to fight one by one for these young students, like California DREAMer Ricardo Muñiz,whose dream is to build eco-friendly structures and be able to support his mother. According to a petition his friends at the California Dream Network started at Change.org:
Ricardo Muniz is a 22-year old student, environmentalist, community activist, teen mentor, DREAM promoter, son, and brother. He is originally from Michoacan, Mexico, and was brought over by his parents to the United States when he was seven years old. Ricardo is a student at Fullerton Jr. College and wants to go on to pursue a double major in international business and environmental economy.
Ricardo grew up in a tough neighborhood in Anaheim and overcame many challenges in his twenty-two years. Today, Ricardo is a mentor and an inspirational speaker who focuses on keeping troubled youth in school and off the streets. Not exactly the kind of "dangerous criminal" ICE and DHS have insisted they are spending precious taxpayer dollars finding and deporting. Despite the support of his community and teachers, Ricardo still faces a looming deportation date of June 9th.
According to United We Dream:
On Monday March 28, on Univision network’s Latino youth town hall, President Obama said that it wasn’t his responsibility to stop the deportation of DREAM Act youth. Less than a week ago, however, on the same television network, he said his administration was not deporting those youth at all.
DREAM activists and even twenty-two U.S. Senators argue that it's time for the Obama administration to stop targeting and deporting the very youth that candidate Obama said should be quickly put on a path to citizenship. As DREAMers and legal experts have been reminding him, Yes, Mr. President, You Can.
As we push for administrative action, please sign the petition for Ricardo -- we still have several days to stop his deportation.
Jackie is the Director of Organizing for Immigrant Rights at Change.org, where this piece is cross-posted.