DREAMers Storm Capitol Hill, Await Word on Senate Vote

Julianne Hing Dec 17, 2010

Many DREAMers had already all but moved in to congressional offices in the days before the House passed the DREAM Act. Now, with a Senate vote possibly just days away, hundreds of immigrant youth activists are gathering in D.C. for their final push of the year.

Congressional aides now say that the earliest the DREAM Act would likely come back up for a vote in the Senate is next Monday or Tuesday. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid postponed the Senate vote the morning after the House passed the DREAM Act, ostensibly to allow the Senate to vote on the House version of the bill. Many immigration advocates said it was a strategic move to buy more time for advocates to move a handful of reluctant Republicans and Democrats.

Since then, DREAM Act activists have been shutting down congressional switchboards with tens of thousands of phone calls every day, doing lobby visits with senators, and organizing their final actions of the year. These final days of advocacy will cap off a year of unprecedented activism and outspoken support for the DREAM Act, which would put undocumented immigrant youth on a path to citizenship if they commit two years to higher education or the military and have a clean criminal record. Military leaders, labor and immigrant rights groups, university presidents, and faith groups have been vocally pushing for the DREAM Act this year.

Today DREAMers, as undocumented youth and DREAM Act activists are often called, organized a blood drive in Washington, D.C., at 50 F Street in coordination with the Children’s National Medical Center, according to Lucy Martinez, a DREAMer from Texas.

“We’re doing this to show that we have contributed to society, and we do give back to this country,” Martinez said. “We’re all human. We all have the same blood.”

Last week Martinez finished a 30-day hunger strike after the House passage of the DREAM Act. She was one of 12 undocumented youth from Texas who refused food for weeks to get Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s attention to the bill. Martinez said that they continue to speak with her staff and haven’t given up on the senator, even though Martinez said the senator didn’t show up to a coffee date DREAM Act activists had scheduled with her today. Hutchison’s spokesperson rejected that characterization, saying that Hutchison canceled her weekly coffee meeting with constituents and gave advance notice to people who RSVP’ed for it.

Martinez said that today’s blood drive was also a response to anti-immigrant critics of the DREAM Act who call undocumented immigrants “criminals.” She said there were more than a hundred DREAMers in Washington, D.C., and that while some states required a Social Security number to donate blood, several DREAMers had donated blood last week and many planned to do so today.

“We contribute so much and that doesn’t get told,” she said. “All that gets mentioned is that we’re ‘illegal,’ but in reality they’re just using it as scare tactics for people to be afraid of us.”

Many, including the GOP, are already looking ahead to next year. Last week Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, who this year lost his seat to Tea Party-backed Republican Mike Lee, told reporters that the Republicans may introduce their own version of the DREAM Act.

“And we, at least the Republican senators I’ve talked to, we think that if we get a DREAM Act worded the way we like, we will vote for it, and we want to do it early next year,” Bennett said, according to The Hill. “It’s my hope—I don’t expect it—but it’s my hope that we can do it this year. If not, it’s my hope a little bit stronger that it can be taken care of next year.”

“I’m very skeptical, very skeptical about it being something that most or even some of us would support,” said Matias Ramos, a DREAM Act activist and founding member of United We DREAM, a national organization of youth-led immigrant rights groups. “Unless there’s a wing of the GOP who’s going to say we’re going to claim a victory on an issue no one expected us to.”

But before then, DREAMers are preparing for one last Senate vote on the DREAM Act, and are ready to give everything they have to see it passed.

This article was originally published on ColorLines.

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