The passage of the California DREAM Act on 10/8/11 marks an historic victory for the immigrant rights movement in America.
Defined in legislative terms, the California Act is a piece of legislature that would give undocumented students access to financial aid. As an undocumented student, I know that the passage of the DREAM Act is not limited to a monetary victory.
For more than a decade, undocumented students have been treated as second-class citizens, denied access to the money needed to pay for college, and essentially shut out of this nations higher education system.
With its passage, the California DREAM Act affirms the equality of every undocumented student in the nation, It makes it clear that, not only do we have the right to go to college, but we are entitled access to the money needed to attend. Given today’s unreasonably high college expenses,
Having the right to attend college without financial aid is like a black person’s right to vote in the Jim Crow South- the right may exist on paper, but not in reality.
This momentous victory did not come easily. Since the bill was introduced, BAMN made it clear that only an independent, integrated, youth-led movement would win the DREAM Act. While the politicians used it as a political football, declaring their support in order to get elected, then doing as close to nothing as possible when elected, I joined BAMN. Having no illusions in the politicians,I marched, rallied, walked-out and spoke out, asserting my equality, dignity and right to an education.
It was pressure from undocumented youth using the tactic of independent mass action that won this battle.
With the passage of the DREAM Act, California has taken an important step on the side of progress, and serves as a model for the rest of the nation.
Rather than feel content by this victory, I feel emboldened.
It serves as proof that when you fight collectively and independently, you can win. I am excited now, more than ever, to fight to secure full equality for all Latino/a and immigrant communities. This means fighting for the Driver’s Licenses for all undocumented people, bringing an end to “Secure Communities” and ICE raids and deportations, and establishing sanctuary cities and campuses across the nation.
The fight for immigrant rights is tied to the fight to defend public education and affirmative action. Just as we fight for the legal and material equality of undocumented people, we fight for the real equality of black, latina/o, women, working class and other minorities, to go beyond equality in theory, but equality in practice.
This is why I am fighting to end discriminatory admissions policies at the nations universities, restoring affirmative action and overturning proposition 2 in Michigan and proposition 209 in California, and defending public education on all levels. Fighting for a bright, hope filled future means joining the new independent, integrated, youth-led Civil Rights and Immigrant Rights movement.
Maria Belman, BAMN Organizer
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