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They were turned down on numerous occasions. Shut out and left out in the cold. But immigrant youth refused to face defeat, knocking on California Representative Joe Baca’s doors till he co-sponsored the DREAM Act.
Why would a Hispanic politician in a district with healthy Latino demographics not co-sponsor a legislation to help legalize young undocumented immigrants and give them access to higher education at the drop of a hat?
Less than a week ago, advocates from the United We DREAM coalition met with Brenda Villanueva — a staffer for Joe Baca — in the DC office, who was adamant that her boss would not support the DREAM Act at this time.
Villanueva said something that immigrant youth have heard many times before: Representative Baca wanted to continue pushing for a comprehensive strategy and hence did not want to co-sponsor the DREAM Act. Apparently, he subscribed to the notion that supporting the DREAM Act was a barrier to achieving legalization for all 10.8 undocumented immigrants rather than a down-payment on future reforms. As an additional cushion to attacks, Baca had also introduced the PROUD Act, a bill similar to the DREAM Act but no substitute to it.
What led to this swift change of heart? Did another group lobby Rep Joe Baca since last week? Did his staffers see the outrage from immigrant youth and catch an inkling of escalated actions against his office in the coming days? Baca’s media contacts have not yet answered requests for clarification or issued a press statement on why the Congressperson did a 180 degree turnaround on the DREAM Act.
The co-sponsorship may be nothing more than a smart move on the part of Rep. Baca to stifle any planned escalation from immigrant youth, parents, teachers and other community members. Whether or not he and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus actually shift gears from a failed pushed for Comprehensive Immigration Reform to pushing for smaller winnable pieces of legislation such as the DREAM Act is an entirely different matter.
Nonetheless, immigrant youth activists appear pleased about this small victory. It has been long time coming and this one co-sponsorship will help build more momentum to drive the movement forward.