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Yesterday, 13 undocumented leaders took a stand and in Alabama, risking deportation, against fear caused by the state’s harsh, anti-immigrant laws. They fought back against the oppressive shadows of fear and silence by raising their voices so that others will take heart and take action.
Local news channel WSFA 12 pulled NCDT’s own Viridiana aside to talk about what happened and why these brave leaders undertook yesterday’s action. Check out this powerful footage of what she had to say.
Also, you can support the AL13 by pitching in to their bail fund- every bit helps.
Over the next few days, expect to see more posts about a Charlotte-area man fighting his deportation. Despite official claims that ‘low priority’ undocumented folks would not be caught up in the deportation dragnet, Javier Santos is still having to face all of this- over a broken license plate light. For those of you who haven’t already seen this:
Please, take a moment from your day- seriously, a couple of minutes at most- to sign Javier’s petition and make a phone call to help reunite Javier with his wife and
two three children. Sadly, because of his continuing detention, ICE wouldn’t let Javier be there for the birth of their third child.
Each day matters- keep making calls and watch this space for more ways to help Javier.
One thing that we have [sadly] gotten used to as organizers is that sometimes, the voices of the undocumented are overlooked, ignored or misrepresented. That’s part of why we, as the NC Dream Team exist. Take, for example, September 6th, 2011.
Seven undocumented youth from across the state came out of the shadows, dropped the fear and disclosed their immigration status in a very public way. Listening to their stories and their reasons for taking this brave action painted a complex picture of the harsh reality that faces undocumented immigrants in North Carolina and around the country. They came out decrying a community college system that throws undocumented youth to the back of the bus- if not under it. Charging them four times the tuition rate [regardless of their ability to show high school diplomas or tax records that would provide in-state tuition for their documented and citizen peers] while demanding that they scavenge through the post-registration leftovers. They also called out policies and programs that blur the line between local police officers and federal immigration agents- 287g and “Secure” Communities.
It’s a shame that the complexity of the reality that they tried to expose proved too complex. Many in the media referred to the act of civil disobedience as a “DREAM Act Rally”. Potential allies looked at what happened and saw it as a chance to express their solidarity with the passage of the DREAM Act.
Don’t get me wrong- we’re not opposing the DREAM Act. Believe me, we’re not. But the reason I bring this up is because listening – really listening – to the voices of these brave youth is important. They are trying to expose their reality, the reality that we all live in- consciously or not. It is a reality that our government pursues most intensely when no one is watching.
I bring this up now because the same day that these youth undertook this action, they met another undocumented person who was caught up by the same policies they were fighting against. Javier Santos was not surrounded by hundreds of supporters at the time of his arrest. He was unceremoniously picked up by the police dragnet and received very different treatment from the youth arrested that day. While they are free today, Javier continues to sit in a detention center awaiting deportation. ICE kept him separate from his wife and children while his wife brought their third daughter into the world. He has been unable to provide for his family for the past month because of these community destroying policies. All this while President Obama claims that “low priority” cases [like Javier's] would not face deportation.
It is this reality that the undocumented youth were calling your attention to. It is Javier who needs your support and attention as much as they needed it on September 6th. Please, take action today to help bring Javier home to his family. Signing this petition is important. Making the phone calls is important. Combined, they will take less than 5 minutes of your day. You can help this father see his newborn daughter for the first time- will you?
Photos by J. Valas
Words alone cannot fully describe the scene as 7 undocumented youth –surrounded by nearly 200 supporters– took to the streets of Charlotte. If you haven’t already heard their stories, please listen to them in their own words.
Here are some photos of the brave, undocumented youth who took part in Tuesday’s action, you can find more pics of the rally, march and action over on flickr. Clips from the action can also be seen here.
In addition to the NC7, three other undocumented youth were arrested and detained: Isabel, Mohammad and Viridiana.
By Emily Cabaniss and Justin Valas
As mentioned in the previous post, the dangers of coming out in rural North Carolina are all too real. Last week at the Lexington Multicultural Festival, four undocumented youth resisted the factors that push back on their ability to have a normal future in the place they call home- they came out of the shadows in a very public place.
Judging by the double-takes that the randomly passing police officers gave us, our booth clearly stood out from the rest of the crowd:
Over the course of the day, dozens of people stopped by our booth to express their support and solidarity. Of those dozens, four youth experienced something very different and left with a subtly defiant glow of confidence in their eyes.
One young woman told me that she had graduated from high school last year and was still wondering what is next. “I want to get into community college, I want to study early childhood education and teach young children.” The only frustration was continued confusion over whether she could get into school (let alone the abusive registration process), and obvious concerns about how to finance the out-of-state tuition she would surely be charged….
A couple of other youth, dressed in the crisp fatigues of JROTC, casually picking up our materials asked about what we do. Nonchalantly, one of the two let it drop that as an undocumented High School senior they were wondering what came next.
Another youth stood and conversed with me at length about the importance of the DREAM Act, and the importance of working to safeguard the rights and futures of undocumented youth. Suddenly, she switched over to Spanish and told me “Soy una de esos estudiantes (I am one of those students).” She went on to tell me about how she had been accepted to college with a generous scholarship package and how much she wanted to share that knowledge with others.
A future child educator. JROTC youth. A student who merited a full-ride scholarship to a prestigious university. These are some of the stories of undocumented youth in rural North Carolina, who are impacted by the anti-immigrant bills in the NC General Assembly. These are some of the youth whose futures are put on hold as Senator Kay Hagan refuses to support the DREAM Act.
As an ally, I felt amazed and inspired by these youth. Full of energy, they had the courage to approach a stranger and shared both their status and desires for the future in a rural county known for its anti-immigrant tendencies.
If there is one thing that I have learned from the past year of our activism in NC and across the country, it is this:
Empowerment is contagious.
How will you use yours?
Everyone should feel free to contact your local Representative and Senator in NC (find yours here), and tell them that you expect them to oppose all anti-immigrant legislation in the General Assembly. You can also urge your Representative and Senators in DC (find yours here) to co-sponsor and support the DREAM Act.
By Justin Valas
Coming together to celebrate the life and work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr gives us all an important reminder of the call to work to advance the cause of equality, struggle towards civil and human rights, and stand for the dignity of all. We are reminded that the rights of the oppressed and disenfranchised are not freely given, and that America still has much work ahead. Many of us have dedicated sleepless nights and tireless months in advancing the DREAM Act in 2010 as a step towards achieving the beloved community. You can understand our shock when Senator Hagan, fresh off of her last-minute squashing of the dreams of 2 million youth (and her reluctance to make a statement about her decision), asked to be present at an event in Durham celebrating the legacy of Dr. King.
The Senator must have sensed the need for her to shore up her civil rights credentials, beyond just an old photo op and her open opposition to the North Carolina Conference of the NAACP. In her speech, she delivered flowery praise on the importance of those acts of non-violent, civil disobedience that propelled civil rights legislation, piece by piece. She rightly praised the Durham sit-ins, and the role that North Carolina played in propelling the cause of justice forward. She urged us to heed Dr. King’s call and to “renew our commitment to the freedoms and values that define our nation.” Notably absent was any mention of her role as a roadblock to a more just society, and her refusal to meet with youth engaged in the same tactics.
Dr. King’s words, pasted below, rung in my ears as I listened to the paternalistic voice that had told us “I understand, but I cannot support you. I support comprehensive immigration reform.”
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail
She had refused to meet with us, refused to hear our voices, voted to keep us in the shadows saying ‘now is not the time for the DREAM Act.’ As Dr. King said, “[p]erhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.'” The keynote speaker at the event candidly spoke on this, when he admitted to becoming tired of the song “We Shall Overcome.” “Someday…. When is ‘someday?’ We’ve been singing this song for 50-some years, and it still isn’t ‘someday,'” he said. Unfortunately, one of the obstacles to making our ‘someday’ become ‘today,’ Senator Hagan, had left the event well before the keynote speaker even took the stage.
Perhaps it was her conscience that compelled her exit. Maybe it was her conscience that lead her to speak to us, in passing, at the event. Before the start of the event, she told some of our members that she plans to focus on immigration, and that “we should meet.”
The words from Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” have not lost their relevance today. While some of the faces and names from King’s day have changed, the realities of injustice remain.
This just released by the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP:
8 December 2010
Contact: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President, 919-394-8137
Mrs. Amina J. Turner, Executive Director, 919-682-4700
Al McSurely, Esq., Communications Press & Publicity Chair, 919-389-2905
NC NAACP CALLS ON SEN BURR & SEN HAGAN TO SUPPORT THE DREAM ACT
The North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP is calling for its membership and leadership to call upon members of Congress to support the DREAM ACT. NC NAACP stands with the National NAACP position that seeks passage of the DREAM ACT. NC NAACP has sent letters to United States Senators Burr and Hagan urging them to vote YES on the DREAM ACT.
State NAACP President, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II stated his full support for the DREAM Act as one step towards immigration reform. “We need to allow young people brought to our country by their parents a chance to dream about becoming a doctor, a soldier, a teacher—a contributing citizen. This act will benefit not only them, but provide a path for citizenship through their hard work and strength of character; thus building a stronger North Carolina and a stronger America.”
Amina Turner, Executive Director added, “We must remember that we are a nation of immigrants—strangers in a new land who pursued deep dreams of achievement and excellence. A new generation has arrived and we must give them to tools to succeed as contributing fellow citizens in our state and nation. The Dream Act is such a tool.”
If enacted, the DREAM Act will allow tens of thousands of young people – people who have worked hard, integrated themselves into the American culture and into American communities and stayed away from trouble – to fulfill their dream and the dreams of their parents and to achieve legal status. This in turn will allow them to go to college or serve in the US military. The DREAM Act symbolizes what America is meant to be all about – it rewards hard work and a commitment to the community with the opportunities and promises of America.
There are still too many young men and women who are preparing to go into their future with too much uncertainty. At a time when they should be celebrating and looking towards an exciting future full of promise and hope, they are instead faced with limitations due entirely to a broken immigration system that does not care, frankly, if they are an honor student, a star athlete, a member of the state champion debating team, or a typical student who has worked hard and stayed out of trouble. The DREAM Act would change that, and reward these young men and women for their hard work and their strength of character which has guided them to this point in their lives.
The DREAM Act is good for our economy, our security, and our nation. It’s limited, targeted legislation that will allow only the best and brightest young people to earn their legal status after a rigorous and lengthy process, and applies to those brought to the United States as minors by their parents, and who know no other home.
Therefore, NC NAACP strongly urges that Congress allow these young men and women to celebrate their accomplishments, contributions and their outstanding behavior by beginning the clear process of becoming documented.
By Justin Valas
Despite the exciting success of gaining Congressman G.K. Butterfield as a supporter of the DREAM Act, Senator Kay Hagan continues her opposition to the bill. I address my response to her opposition in the letter being sent to her offices, pasted below.
Senator Kay Hagan,
Over the past year, undocumented youth from across the country have come out of the shadows to show the human face of our broken immigration system. From letters, phone calls, articles, declarations of support, hunger strikes, sit-ins, die-ins, acts of civil disobedience, and numerous lobby visits- you have refused to see these faces. You have shown your priorities, choosing meeting a trick-performing mule over the youth upon whom The Independent Weekly conferred the Citizen Award.
You have repeatedly refused action on tangible steps towards immigration reform, while professing your support for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that you neither helped to draft nor co-sponsor. Your name appears nowhere in the Schumer-Graham framework introduced early this year. In September, you had another chance to support Comprehensive Immigration Reform when Senator Menendez introduced S. 3932- the CIR Act of 2010. For a proponent of CIR your absence from the list of co-sponsors is telling. Your vote does however appear on S.3721.IS- an emergency funding bill for stricter border enforcement measures, including the deployment of additional drones at the border. Hardly a “comprehensive” approach to immigration reform.
You say that you don’t want a bill that doesn’t address the issues facing our communities, as if the DREAM Act would be an end to the struggle for immigration reform. As if we would stop struggling for our communities. As if we, the youth in this movement, would abandon our older siblings, our parents, and our abuelitos. If you had any understanding of this movement, and the young people leading it, you would know better. Had you any idea that we took part in actions against Arizona’s SB 1070, led know your rights trainings, struggled to re-unify a family broken apart by our immigration system, or had the support of our parents in this struggle- you might sing a different tune.
You had both the time and audacity to sponsor a bill (S.RES.353.ATS) supporting American Education Week, while the time to co-sponsor a natural extension of that bill, the DREAM Act, seems to have escaped you. The opening line of the Presidential Proclamation for that week asserts:
Education is essential to our success as both a people and a Nation. During American Education Week, we rededicate ourselves to providing a complete and competitive education for every student, from cradle through career.
From your own bill:
[E]quipping young people in the United States with both practical skills and broader intellectual abilities, public schools give young people hope for, and access to, a productive future;
The costs of your refusal are not just productive futures and a better United States, your inaction is costing lives. If you are so concerned about the families of these undocumented youth, where is your concern as the same families mourn the suicide of their children who feel they have no future? How many more families must suffer this loss? How many more parents must suffer the remorse of frustrated futures for their children? How many more families must be separated from their children either through deportation or voluntary departure?
As a Senator who owes her seat to communities of color, I would hope that you would recognize the importance of standing by these communities. Despite losing the white vote by 18 points, you still claimed victory in 2008. New immigrants and immigrant youth voters (Latino and Asian alone) represent 120,000 votes in North Carolina- that’s nearly 10 times the margin of victory that separated President Obama from Senator John McCain in 2008.
As a US citizen and one of your voting constituents, I have been proud to stand by my undocumented friends and family in this struggle, a struggle which you have ignored. Yes, members of my family are undocumented, and not all of them will benefit from the passage of the DREAM Act. If you think that DREAMers are going to step out of the shadows and be content to leave their, our, families in them- you are sorely mistaken. While every other governmental and organizational proponent of Comprehensive Immigration Reform has come on board for the passage of the DREAM Act, you stand alone in opposition. You are single-handedly forcing these brave youth back into the shadows. You are single-handedly ensuring more pain for their families. You are single-handedly responsible for pain and suffering in the very communities to whom you owe your position. If you think that the incoming congress will be any more likely to take even a minuscule step to help reform our immigration system in a comprehensive way, you are again sorely mistaken.
To be clear, you are standing in opposition to the President; your party leadership; the Secretaries of Homeland Security, Defense, and Education; the Department of Defense; former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell; leaders of faith communities throughout North Carolina; your constituents; and countless others. You are instead standing with groups that willfully distort the truth in order to advance their xenophobic anti-immigrant agenda.
I urge you to carefully consider your position and the impacts of your inaction. North Carolina’s motto is Esse Quam Videri, and I challenge you to be, rather than seem, a friend to immigrant communities. Don’t be mistaken, your continued insistence on Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the face of legislative down-payment on that reform does not make you a friend of immigrant communities. You have a chance to do the right thing, and I strongly urge you to support the DREAM Act.
by Justin Valas
For a few families, this was a Thanksgiving to remember with joy. Despite ICE’s continued pursuit of hardworking and talented undocumented youth, DREAM Act-ivists and supporters from around the nation have three great reasons to celebrate this Thanksgiving. About 5 minutes before the press conference we had called in support of Fredd Reyes was set to get under way, a phone call cut through the tense air: Fredd was being released! After a quick briefing to the press and a small celebration, Fredd’s friends and family took off to pick him up. Despite being taken from his North Carolina home to the notorious Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, apparently ICE found it sufficient to get Fredd to Atlanta and let his family take him from there. At least Fredd was released and soon to be home.
Fredd’s release was the fulfillment of an amazing hat-trick- in a single day, three DREAM Act-eligible youth were released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s custody! It is thanks to the quick action by so many of you out there that Fredd, Jennifer, and Bernard were able to be reunited with their families for Thanksgiving. The NC DREAM Team would like to echo the thanks that Fredd’s mother had expressed for all of the activists and supporters who made this possible (especially our friends around the country who provided vital assistance, put in a lot of work, and are all-around amazing people- you know who you are). We would also like to give Fredd’s family and friends special recognition- their organizing and hard work was crucial and inspirational.
Fredd may have been released from Stewart and returned to his family, but our work is far from over. This Thanksgiving was definitely a time of joy for these three families, but there are many others for whom this day was not spent in the joyful company of family. For the families of Pedro Guzman and Alisson Hernández Sánchez, a vacant seat served as a reminder of our broken immigration system. You can help us and these families by taking action for Pedro and Alisson and by calling your Senators and Representatives (866-996-5161), urging them to support passage of the DREAM Act as it comes up for a vote in the coming week.
Contact- Justin Valas
919.408.1449 | firstname.lastname@example.org
****For Immediate Release****
As DREAM Act Approaches, Detentions Hit Home
Talented, local student ripped away from family as holidays, DREAM Act vote approach
GREENSBORO, NC – Twenty two years ago, a family fled political persecution and threats of violence in their native Guatemala, arriving in the US with their two year old son, hoping to find asylum. After 12 years, their petition for asylum was denied. Ten years later, their son Fredd, now 24 years old, was pulled from his sleep by ICE on the day of his exams at Guilford Technical Community College and placed into removal proceedings.
Fredd Reyes is the most recent in a long summer of DREAM Act-eligible youth facing deportation in the face of pending legislation. Fredd is an accomplished actor, singer, and student. He graduated from Davidson Community College with an associates degree and was continuing his education by studying to be a dental hygienist at Guilford Tech. That is, until ICE interrupted his studies. He is also a talented actor, having performed in many plays and short films, and a singer with an amazing voice. Aside from his videos on YouTube, Fredd had also auditioned for the television program Glee and sings with his mother and sister every Sunday at Our Lady of Grace’s Spanish mass.
Fredd is an impressive young man whose future has been put on hold by a broken immigration system that seeks to remove him from the place he has called home for more than 90% of his life. He is well loved by his friends and community. He is an asset to his community, to North Carolina, and to the United States- to which his friends, family, and co-workers will attest.
The NC DREAM Team is convening a press conference to highlight Fredd’s case through the words of those affected by his detainment. There will also be information shared about the status of the DREAM Act, its importance to North Carolina, and other DREAM Act eligible youth currently detained as a vote on the DREAM Act draws near.
This press conference will take place today, November 24th, 2010 from 3pm to 4pm at the Greensboro Cultural Center (200 N Davie St., Greensboro, NC 27401).
For more about Fredd, and ways to take action, please visit: www.FreddReyes.com
About the DREAM Act:
The DREAM Act, first introduced in 2001 by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), would provide a one-time, earned path to permanent residency for undocumented youth who arrived in the US before the age of 16; have maintained continuous presence in the US for the 5 years immediately preceding the passage of the DREAM Act; posses good moral character; have graduated from a US high school; and serve two years either in the uniformed forces or towards the completion of a bachelors degree or higher.