This post was originally published by Campus Progress.
The DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented young people a path to citizenship if they follow the law and go to college or serve for two years in the military, was blocked by a narrow failure to end a Senate filibuster earlier this week. But though the legislation has been temporarily put on hold, student activists across the country built up significant momentum in the days leading up to Tuesday’s vote, and they’re regrouping now to bring that energy to bear in the midterm elections.
If nothing else, this week has seen gains in the court of public opinion for the DREAM Act: More people know what it’s for and why it’s important after a week of intensified media coverage and grassroots campaigning. The presidents of eight universities in the nation’s higher education powerhouse issued a letter of support (PDF) for the act and ome unusual suspects from the right and the military openly voiced their support.
The New York Times profiled Cesar Vargas, an undocumented young person who wants to join the military and study law, demonstrating how this legislation connects to real individuals.
"’Without the Dream Act, I’m relegated to a mere shadow,’ he said, after recounting his longtime hopes of joining the military. He said he had repeatedly tried to enlist, especially after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but was turned away.
"’I’m asking Congress to give us the opportunity to serve the only country we know, the only country we call home,’ he said."
Change.org published profiles of 5 inspiring DREAMers in the run up to the Senate vote. Campus Progress published its own videos of David Cho, a DREAMer from University of California–Los Angeles who spoke in support of the DREAM act at this summer’s national conference, and a video of DREAMers rallying in support of legislation earlier this summer. Stories like these make it clear that we’re not talking about people looking to “leach off the system” or take an easy way out. These young people are this country’s future cancer researchers, doctors, teachers, civil rights lawyers, and politically engaged members of civil society. They’re today’s honor students, activists, and volunteers.
Such stories also gave a jolt of adrenaline to activism around a piece of legislation that’s been kicking around the Senate for ten years without results. In the short time between Harry Reid’s announcement last week and the defeat of the defense authorization bill tied to the DREAM Act on Tuesday, activists flooded their Senators’ offices phone lines and Facebook walls.