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This is a reposting of the second part of "The Strategy and Organizing Behind the Successful DREAM Act Movement: How Undocumented Students in the United States Shifted Strategy, Regrouped, Refocused and Won an Historic Victory,"  orginally published on NarcoNews on July 11, 2012.

By Paulina Gonzalez

The failed Senate vote (see Part I of this series) of December 2010 could have been the end of the effort to stop the deportation of undocumented students in the United States. It certainly felt like a devastating blow to the movement. Tears flowed; anger, frustration, and heartbreak were unleashed on social media sites and in protests across the country. “After the Senate vote, there was a convening at the UCLA Labor Center. We took to the streets in a sign of protest, unity, empowerment, and solidarity. We embraced each other’s grief of losing the campaign and the opportunity,” said Carlos Amador, one of the organizers.


Undocumented, unafraid and unashamed. DR 2011 Pocho1 Visual Movement.

Neidi Dominguez, an undocumented graduate of UC Santa Cruz and an aspiring lawyer began to research the possibilities for a way forward. Together with other Dream Movement organizers, they evaluated the 2010 Dream Act defeat. They took note of the fact that although the Republican Party was the most vocally opposed to the DREAM Act, and the President publicly supported the DREAM Act, Senate Democrats had failed them. In the end, the movement fell short of advancing the DREAM Act when five Senate Democrats failed to vote to end the filibuster. Together they evaluated the strategy they had undertaken, and carefully considered the lessons learned from strategic missteps in order to develop a new strategy. “When we didn’t get the Democrat votes we needed in the Senate, it was a transformational moment for us and we decided to target the President and Democrats in our strategy,” said Dream Team LA member, Neidi Dominguez. “President Obama had publicly supported the DREAM Act, and now we were going to hold him to his promise,” she said. 

dream-act-slide

Undocumented Youth Have Shown that Ordinary People Build Extraordinary People Power, Even in the United States

Part I

In the year that TIME Magazine named “The Protester” as the Person of the Year focusing on the three-month-old “Occupy” on its cover as the pinnacle of protest success, the three-year-old national Dream Movement was moving steadily toward the most significant victory the immigrant rights movement had seen in 40 years. They were about to prove to the world that there is a difference between protest and movement. As we witness the birth of Mexico’s inspiring “Yo Soy 132” movement, as students take to the streets in Montreal, and as Occupy continues to struggle to find a focus and direction, perhaps it is time to take a closer look at the Dream Movement and the lessons it shares with us.

Neidi and CarlosIn a June 24 talk at the Fletcher Summer Institute for Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict, the Reverend James Lawson stated that “power comes from ordinary people.” The civil rights leader and architect of the Nashville student sit-ins reiterated that the civil rights movement was not a spontaneous series of actions. In fact, he said, almost all the actions that took place were carefully strategized, thought through, planned, and examined beforehand. This, after all, is what is required to outfox and outrace the opposition powers. “There is a wonderful example of this, right now, going on in the United States, and it is making me rethink some things about strategy and action, and that is the Dream Act students,” said Rev. Lawson.

0615-obama-Dream-Act-stall full 600To be part of the immigrant rights movement is to really understand loss and losing in the deepest sense. Attending some sort of funeral, having friends and family that are in this country one day and permanently exiled the next, watching parents break down in tears in the last five minutes of a detention center visit and asking yourself, "is that really legal" multiple times after documenting an ICE raid are all collateral consequences of a broken system and the fight against it. I even get tired of repeating the same, still relevant points, about an emerging apartheid state in articles I write every couple of years, because things always seem to get predictably worse.

Published in Subhash Kateel

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