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DREAMers Celebrate Win, Vow Continued Action for Immigration Reform

Courtesy of the United We Dream Facebook Page (Jose Antonio Vargas)

Clad in graduation robes and mortarboards, dozens of young “DREAMers,” who no longer face deportation, celebrated President Obama’s action last week that will allow them to remain in the nation in which they grew up. DREAMer activists also announced a campaign to educate and energize the Latino community about the new policy.

Welcoming the students from the United We Dream coalition to AFL-CIO headquarters this afternoon, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

In this house, we’re not divided as immigrants or native-born. We are united by our vision and values—our vision of an America where hard work is fairly rewarded. I want to thank everyone who has poured creativity, energy and courage into this movement for fairness....

Last week, Obama issued a directive to the Department of Homeland Security halting the deportation of young immigrants who would be eligible for U.S. residency under the terms of the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would provide undocumented young people who were brought to the United States by their parents a pathway to legal residency through higher education or service in the military.

“Getting to this moment was not an easy task,” said Christina Jimenez, managing director of the United We Dream network. ”DREAMers all across the nation put together” a movement and campaign that now means:

We can have our dreams and live without fear.

United We Dream is a national network, led by immigrant youth, that organizes and advocates for access to higher education and legal status for all.

Even after the Senate defeated the DREAM Act in 2010, the DREAMers didn’t give up, said Neidi Dominguez from the DREAM Team Los Angeles.

We informed, we educated and we organized in our communities. This is the first step to something bigger and we will continue to fight.

DREAMer Gaby Pacheco said United We Dream has trained 2,000 people to move the education campaign about the Obama administration’s action into immigrant communities with door-to-door campaigns, town hall meetings and other actions.

Jose Antonio Vargas worked for five years as a Washington Post reporter, where he was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team of journalists who covered the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. But the Philippines-born Vargas is also an undocumented immigrant, a fact he revealed in a 2011 article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine

Vargas, who also contributed to last week’s Time magazine cover story exploring the lives of 36 undocumented immigrants from 36 countries, told the DREAMers:

You are watching history unfold and break right before your eyes. This campaign is bigger and is about more than 12 million undocumented people. It is about 360 million Americans and what we will be as a nation. This is way bigger than politics.    

Trumka said the union movement “has learned a critical lesson” from the DREAM activists.

I’ve seen you build momentum for a movement in support of a beautiful and necessary piece of legislation that languished unmoving in the halls of Congress. I’ve watched as you built a moral case for the dream that one day hard-working immigrants who know no country but ours will be helped to citizenship with a clear path, not hounded with threats of detention and deportation. And I’ve seen you bring a basic and humanistic approach to the entire immigration debate.

But, he added, “The struggle is not won. We’ll keep working and fighting for the long-lasting solutions we need.”

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