Fresh off an election year filled with historic victories, the immigrant youth movement today announced plans for 2013 and its next big fights ahead. One thing is certain: 2013 will be a very long year.
No longer content to fight just for the rights of a narrow portion of the community, and emboldened by their 2012 wins, immigrant youth are expanding their demands to call for an end to deportations and the legalization of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. Also in their platform is a call to end the immigration enforcement policies like Secure Communities, 287(g), and E-Verify, which purport to look out for the national security and economic interests of the country but have had the primary effect of devastating immigrant communities.
The agenda is part of a six-point platform that was unanimously ratified this weekend during the national congress held by United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led network. UWD, comprised of 47 member organizations which make up the broadest base of the immigrant youth movement, brought together what it calls the largest gathering of undocumented immigrant youth—600 activists altogether, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Immigrant youth who have been at the forefront of the immigrant rights movement “pledged to hold both parties accountable and fight for families and communities and win a roadmap to citizenship and fair treatment for all immigrants who call this country home,” said Lorella Praeli, the advocacy and policy director for UWD.
Immigrant youth, who’ve aggressively amassed political capital over the last decade by becoming forceful agents for their own liberation by demanding justice on their own terms, want to expand the definition of which undocumented immigrants deserve to stay in the country to include their parents and the larger undocumented community. It will not be an easy task; DREAMers, as immigrant youth are often called, are seen as having more sympathetic stories than other undocumented immigrants because, as they’re often described, they were “brought” to the country as children “by no fault of their own.” But undocumented immigrants of all ages of backgrounds are bound together and deserve the same rights and respect, UWD argues. And indeed, the immigrant youth platform is notable for its inclusiveness. It presents a stark contrast to recent Republican offerings on immigration like the STEM Jobs Act, a bill to give green cards to highly educated science professionals, and the Achieve Act, which would give legal status but no citizenship to an even more narrow set of immigrant youth than would the federal DREAM Act, a ten-year-old legalization bill that inspired it.
UWD’s platform comes amid renewed calls in the Beltway for immigration reform. Republican and Democratic leaders alike, starting with President Obama and including Reps. John Boehner and Luis Gutierrez, and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham have all made public moves to get the immigration reform ball rolling for the new year.
Thus, for immigrant youth, carrying out their platform will begin immediately. After the January inauguration ceremonies for President Obama, UWD is planning public actions to move its agenda, said Pamela Resendiz, a DREAMer from Texas, with an eye toward having a bill on the house floor in May, Her resolve to fight for the rights of the broader migrant community was born when she was arrested and detained in 2010 alongside women just like her mother and relatives. She was released, but most were not. “I made myself a promise that day to never let anyone else go through that, as a human being, to never let another person be incarcerated because of a lack of documentation,” Resendiz said. “I was able to be reunited with my family, but I will continue to fight for the other 11 million undocumented immigrants.”