Friday, November 24

UCLA activists pledge to fight on despite DREAM Act’s demise in the Senate

As the Senate voted to block the DREAM Act on Saturday, more than 100 viewers who had arrived at 5:30 a.m. at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center went quiet.

With a 55-41 vote, the Senate was unable to end a Republican filibuster, which effectively blocked passage of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.

Had it passed, the DREAM Act would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented students who obtained at least two-year college degree or served for two years in the military after meeting certain criteria. To qualify, students would have had to fulfill a number of requirements, such as entering the country prior to the age of 16 and having graduated high school or obtained a GED.

“With respect to the DREAM Act, I have great sympathy for the students who would benefit from passage of this legislation,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement on his website following the Senate vote. “However, I cannot put the priorities of these students, as difficult and unfair in many respects as their situation is, ahead of my constituents and the American people who demand that the Federal government fulfill its Constitutional duty to secure our borders before we undertake other reforms.”

Today’s Senate vote came nearly two weeks after the House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act with a vote of 216-198.

“We’re very disappointed in how the government failed to represent what’s best for our country and for us,” said Sofia Campos, co-chair of IDEAS, an advocacy group for undocumented students.

Campos, a fourth-year political science and global studies student, expressed anger at the failure of the bill, which was originally introduced in 2001, saying that the vote is causing a great deal of emotional turmoil as it personally affects every member of IDEAS. The organization, Campos added, will keep fighting, though, as they are more determined then ever to get the bill passed at some point.

Mario De Leon, co-chair of IDEAS, said that roughly 20 to 30 IDEAS members attended the Downtown Labor Center viewing along with members of political organizations across Southern California, including members of the L.A. Dream Team, another California-based advocacy group in support of for the DREAM Act.

Although De Leon, a fourth-year international development studies student, said he was disappointed by the vote, he added that having so many DREAM Act supporters come together to watch the vote was very gratifying.

Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education, said he believes the vote against the DREAM Act was a harmful decision, discounting thousands of immigrant students who are very much a part of society.

Even with the disappointment of the ruling, Wong gave credit to undocumented students in and out of UCLA who have brought the DREAM Act to the forefront of the national conversation.

“What is so amazing is that the courage and determination of these students has altered the national debate on the DREAM act and on national reform,” Wong said. “UCLA students have played a huge role nationally.”

In keeping with this student determination, Campos and De Leon said that IDEAS’s next step will be to throw its support behind the California DREAM Act, which would provide many of the same benefits of the national bill to California residents.

According to Campos, IDEAS members will rally outside the University of California Board of Regents meeting at UC San Diego from Jan. 18 to Jan. 20 to show support for the California DREAM Act, among other issues.

The National DREAM Act, however, will have to wait to be re-introduced until the 112th session of Congress begins next year.

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