December of Dreams
Dressed in graduation caps and gowns, their faces gleamed with optimism. On December 18, 2010, undocumented immigrant youth and their allies lined up outside the nation’s Capitol to witness the U.S. Senate vote on the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Hundreds of students from across the nation descended on Washington to watch what they hoped would be the culmination of their organizing efforts. For weeks, months, and for some, even years, these youth had organized a series of political actions to draw attention to their plight: their undocumented status. Their tactics, which ranged from acts of civil disobedience to hunger strikes and “coming out” rallies, had galvanized youth and young adults and propelled them to publicly declare their undocumented identity. On this date, they sat through public statements that criminalized their presence and rendered them “illegal.” And, together, they saw, once again, DREAM fall short by five votes of overcoming a Senate filibuster.
To vote “yes” on the DREAM Act may have cost some legislators their political careers, though probably not. For DREAMers, the failure to pass this piece of legislation translated into more years of deferred dreams, substandard wages, and a life that confines them to the shadows.