1. In DC, DREAMers Join the Fast
On December 1, I traveled to DC with other leaders from United We Dream–Tampa Bay. We met with our members of Congress, demanding that they lead on immigration reform for our families. We also joined the #Fast4Families. Our movement is proud to stand with Eliseo Medina, a labor leader and voice in this movement for decades, and the other leaders for a moral awakening and to send a message to Speaker Boehner to stop delaying immigration reform. As a citizen from a mixed status family, I’m fighting for my sister, who is undocumented, and my parents, who remain undocumented and haven’t seen my 24-year-old brother since they left Mexico twenty years ago.
2. In El Paso, Dream 30 Meet New Asylum-Seekers
While the Dream 30 were detained at El Paso Processing center in Texas this past October, the cases of many immigrants who had passed their credible fear interview, the first step for asylum, but still had not been released was brought to our attention. The failure to release them flies in the face of a 2009 ICE memorandum establishing that those “found to have credible fear” and who present “neither a flight risk nor danger to the community” qualify for parole. So far, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance has found more than 100 cases where detainees are being held despite meeting criteria for parole, including three cases of pregnant women detained in conditions detrimental to the health of their unborn babies and several instances of harassment based on religious or sexual identity. We are asking for a full congressional review of the facility and of local ICE officials who are not releasing detainees under the memo.
—National Immigrant Youth Alliance
3. In California, Activists Disrupt Obama, U-Lock to ICE
On November 25, Ju Hong, a University of California student and member of Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights and Education, or ASPIRE, intervened in President Obama’s immigration reform speech in San Francisco. Hong pleaded with Obama to stop the deportations, a message that ASPIRE has echoed. That same day, three young women u-locked their necks to the front gates of a detention center in the city of Adelanto. And then, on December 2, Orange County organizers held an action in front of a detention center, insisting ICE be shut down and reiterating the national call for administrative relief for all and an end to deportations.
4. Mandatory Minimums Get Tabled, for Now
The Chicago Chapter of Black Youth Project 100 is organizing to stop SB 1342 from becoming law in the State of Illinois. SB 1342 would require anyone caught with an illegal firearm to receive mandatory one-year sentencing and a felony charge. Decades of research demonstrate that laws like SB 1342 do not actually decrease gun violence or make our communities safer. This law will put more black bodies in prison at the expense of unaccountability for illicit gun sellers; our communities need good schools and good jobs, not more incarceration. On December 2, BYP 100 members joined Project NIA in an action outside Chicago’s City Hall to send a message that young black people are invested in making sure SB 1342 does not become law. SB 1342 was expected to be voted on during the December special session, but has been delayed until the upcoming spring session. BYP 100 Chicago will continue gathering petition signatures and phone-banking, focusing on key members in the Illinois State Legislature. For us, this is personal.
5. Stand Your Ground Inches Forward, Opposition Grows
In November, the Ohio House of Representatives voted to bring Stand Your Ground to Ohio. In spite of ten city council resolutions against the shoot-first law, opposition from police associations, prosecutors and legal professionals and sustained outcry from faith groups and youth, state representatives are still pushing forward with the bill. After the Ohio Student Association delivered 10,000 petition signatures with the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus and died-in outside the statehouse, our representatives continued to ignore the voices of Ohioans opposed to the bill. So we disrupted the vote, and are getting ready to turn up the pressure as it moves to the Senate, #unafraidtogether.
6. Youth Services International Meets a Youth Groundswell
In Florida, Dream Defenders are preparing for a long battle against a huge corporation profiting off youth incarceration: Youth Services International. In recent years, Florida has privatized the entirety of its $183 million juvenile commitment system—the country’s third largest, after only California and Texas. This means more young people in YSI prisons, boot camps and detention centers, which have a long history of abuse and negligence. Two lawsuits have just been filed against YSI, CEO James Slattery and staff at its Broward and Pembroke Pines facilities, accusing staff of physical and emotional abuse and the corporation of negligence. Despite its history, the Department of Juvenile Justice and Secretary Wansley Walters are still in the process of granting the company another contract for a facility in Miami, the third contract since a Huffington Post investigation brought the facility to light. Dream Defenders have been visiting the members of the Senate Criminal Justice and Civil Rights Subcommittee to demand that YSI be granted #NoMoreContracts in the state.
7. At GWU, the Minimum Wage Moves
With skyrocketing housing costs, too many DC residents cannot find the money to continue calling the city home on the current minimum wage, $8.25 an hour. On December 3, the DC City Council passed both the Minimum Wage Amendment Act and Earned Sick and Safe Leave Amendment Act. The legislation brings DC’s minimum wage to $11.50 by 2016, incrementally increasing every year, and ties it to the Consumer Price Index. Students from the George Washington University Roosevelt Institute have joined a coalition of community organizations, including the DC Jobs with Justice, RESPECT DC and multiple local unions, to put grassroots pressure on the council. Activists have visited council offices, filled up the hearing room meetings and organized numerous rallies. Leading up to a follow-up vote on December 17, students will continue applying pressure to the council.
—Yasemin Ayarci and Joelle Gamble
8. At Alvarez High School, Students Get a Rare Win
On November 25, the Providence Student Union’s “No More School Closings!” campaign culminated in a big win. Back in October, the Providence School Department announced a plan to close Providence’s Alvarez High School, where the Providence Student Union has a youth-led chapter. Less than an hour after we got the news, a large group of PSU members were standing together in the Providence School Board’s chambers, ready to speak out against the department’s proposal. After a month of organizing, from rallying the community, to successfully pushing the city council to pass a resolution against the closure, to packing school board meetings and more, the school board voted to keep Alvarez High School open.
—Providence Student Union
9. Free Speech at UC?
Students at the University of California–San Diego are being charged with violating the student conduct code after disrupting Chancellor Khosla’s speech at the annual Founders’ Day event. On November 15, in the lead-up to a one-day student strike in solidarity with striking campus workers, students read demands and grievances to the chancellor involving the conditions of workers, grad students and undergrads in the University of California amid growing privatization. Though this was the third consecutive Founders’ Day disruption, it was the first year with charges. In response, students have started a petition and a letter writing campaign and have planned several demonstrations, including a mock checkpoint where students are to cross the line and shut up as they symbolically have their freedom of speech taken away.
10. A Union at NYU?
After an eight-year struggle, the Graduate Student Organizing Committee/UAW and Scientists and Engineers Together/UAW reached a historic agreement with New York University in which the administration will remain neutral and respect our right to vote on union representation on December 10 and 11. A majority vote by more than 1,200 GAs, TAs and RAs would restore collective bargaining—once again making NYU the only private institution with a graduate employee union—and put us in position to have a new contract in place by the end of the academic year. Looking forward to voting “yes” to win back the Union, a group of more than 100 graduate employees from every major department across NYU and the Polytechnic Institute of NYU has endorsed the agreement, which expands the number of eligible graduate employees beyond the previous contract and includes a joint statement affirming that collective bargaining will “improve the graduate student experience” and “sustain and enhance NYU’s academic competitiveness.”