Washington, DC – Galvanized by their winning a momentous victory earlier this year with the creation of the deferred action policy and having earned their place at the forefront of the debate over immigration policy, 600 representatives of America’s over 2 million undocumented youth gathered in Kansas City, MO this weekend (November 30- December 2) for the United We Dream (UWD) 2012 National Congress. Following the conference, the largest gathering ever of DREAMers, DREAM leaders spoke on a telephone news conference to outline their movement’s agenda moving forward and their political platform, which was voted on by representatives from UWD’s 47 affiliates in 25 states.
“After years of organizing, undocumented youth led the immigrant rights movement to win the new deferred action policy – the most significant victory for immigrants in over 25 years. We are building a powerful national movement for change and are excited for the coming fight,” said Cristina Jimenez, Managing Director of United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country. “We will hold politicians accountable for creating a roadmap to citizenship for DREAMers, our families and our communities and which ends senseless deportations and abuses.”
The 600 representatives at the UWD 2012 National Congress voted on an official platform, demanding protections for families and communities and pledging to fight for a roadmap to citizenship for the entire immigrant community. These demands come in the midst of a renewed conversation on Capitol Hill around immigration issues, with both parties realizing that they need to respond to historic Latino, Asian-American and immigrant voter turnout in the November election. Speakers on the call made it clear that DREAMers reject proposals like the Achieve Act, which offer even less than the DREAM Act.
“Cynical political gestures like the Achieve Act are a step backwards. Our political leaders can and should take advantage of this moment to chart a new course,” said Lorella Praeli, Director of Advocacy and Policy at United We Dream. “United We Dream is ready to redefine political realities and push for a bold vision for the future. When no one thought it possible, DREAMers forced the DREAM Act onto the political agenda and nearly won. And when no one thought it possible, DREAMers successfully drove the President of the United States to stop deporting us and offer us work permits.”
The platform voted on at the Congress includes demands for protections for families, access to higher education, and a roadmap to legal immigration status and citizenship:
1. Fair treatment for DREAMers and our families and communities, including a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million Americans without papers and an end to senseless deportations and abuses
2. The ability to travel without fear, ensuring all immigrants have access to driver licenses and the ability to visit family in other countries
3. The elimination of barriers to higher education for immigrant youth by extending state and federal financial aid opportunities, as well as in-state tuition rates to DREAMers available to our peers
4. An end to excessive and costly immigration enforcement policies which separate families and divide communities, such as “Secure Communities,” E-Verify, 287G, and roadside checkpoints
5. Access to health care and safe, fair working conditions and equal protection under the law for all
6. Growth and diversity of our movement for change, intensifying efforts to become more inclusive of non-Latinos, LGBTQ communities, differently-abled people, people of faith, and other groups
United We Dream affiliates across the country plan coordinated actions the week of President Obama’s inauguration to highlight the plight of our families under an excessive and immoral immigration enforcement system and to tell the stories of our courageous parents who sacrificed for us, their children’s futures. Undocumented youth will continue their role of leadership within the immigrant rights movement to build national momentum for policies and laws that protect all families and provide a roadmap to citizenship.
“I came to this country at the age of 9 and grew up in Dallas, Texas. I graduated from the University of Texas- San Antonio, a big accomplishment only possible with the support of my family,” said Pamela Resendiz, a DREAMer from Texas and a leader with United We Dream. “On March 18, 2010, I was wrongfully arrested and detained and placed in deportation proceeding. I pledged then to continue to fight for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, to make sure they are never separated from their families like I was.”
In addition to coalescing around political demands and strategies for 2013 and beyond, undocumented young people shared their stories, connecting with new leaders and building an even larger community of young people working shoulder-to-shoulder to win fair treatment, expand access to higher education, legal immigration status, and protections for families.
“As my family was building our lives here in this country, my brother was deported,” said Carlos Amador, a member of the Dream Team Los Angeles. “My family experienced trauma, fear, and pain and I realized we needed to fight to make sure no other family was separated.”
DREAMers from California, New Mexico, Washington, Florida, New York, Minnesota, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, Virginia, New Jersey, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Missouri participated in the UWD 2012 National Congress.
United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led network in the nation with 47 affiliates in 25 states that organize and advocate for access to higher education and legal status for all.