University News

Community rallies for the DREAM Act

By
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

With repeated cries of “Education, not deportation,” students gathered on the Main Green Monday at noon to voice their support of the DREAM Act, which is headed for a congressional vote this week as a part of a defense reauthorization bill.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would give undocumented immigrants who came to the United States with their families before the age of 16 a chance to obtain “conditional permanent resident status” with an opportunity to become permanent legal residents, according to the bill.

Monday’s rally was organized by the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition and coincided with events all over the country. “This is national. We are not just a small group of students,” Crystal Vance-Guerra ’11, one of BIRC’s members and a Herald reporter, announced to the crowd that gathered around the group’s small table. “This is everywhere.”

In addition to repeated shouts of “Call your senator!”, organizers asked students to join the two carloads of people who are going to lobby Congress on Wednesday and walked around asking students to make video testimonials.

To qualify under the act, students must have earned a high school diploma or its equivalent, according to the bill. Additionally, they must acquire a college degree, complete two years of college education or serve two years in the Armed Services within six years of obtaining residence in the U.S. The act will make it possible for undocumented students to qualify for some financial aid and student loans.

The organization of the rally was a hectic process, said My Dang ’13, another member of BIRC. “We found out the bill was going to be introduced Thursday, and we started organizing Friday.”

“So many people, even if they’ve heard of the DREAM Act, don’t know it’s going to be voted on this week,” said Madisen Obiedo ’12, who is a member of BIRC.

BIRC organizers asked passersby to make phone calls to a long list of senators either opposed to or on the fence about the act. “People don’t realize that phone calls to your senator really make a difference,” said Vyvy Trinh ’11, another BIRC member who helped coordinate the rally.

At the rally, organizers also told the story of Tam Tran GS, who helped start BIRC in spring 2008. Tram, who was killed in a car accident last May, was herself an undocumented immigrant and an advocate for immigrant reform. She was an “amazing organizer,” Trinh said. Tran’s death inspired members of BIRC to continue her work to honor her memory, Trinh added.

“Tomorrow is a very important day for 2.2 million youth in America,” called out Antonio Albizures-Lopez, a Rhode Island native and recent high school graduate who came to the U.S. at age one. Albizures-Lopez began working with a youth coalition affiliated with BIRC after meeting Tran last year, he said.

The rally ended with a familiar song, specially tailored for the occasion. “We are the dreamers, the mighty, mighty dreamers,” the crowd called out. “Fighting for justice and the DREAM Act!”

BIRC’s efforts will continue regardless of how the vote turns out, said the rally’s organizers. According to Trinh, there will be a teach-in on Oct. 3 to discuss immigration history and policy.

“BIRC knows that even afterwards, there’s so much more we hope to get done,” Dang said.