Tag Archives: undocumented students

Lessons from New York

I have never been to New York before but it isn’t places that hold importance–it’s people. And sometimes we meet and spend time with people who remind us why we are still residing in this #%#%% country.

I remember when I was a kid, I had made a speech about how friendship was the most important and telling relationship since it was one of the only ones that we aren’t forced to make or keep. This blog has many friendly stalkers and the ones in New York are both special and important enough to keep.

I inherited the red-eye on Thursday, spent the day in company of friends working to stop the deportation of Taha, had a smashing night with little sleep, got dragged to a meeting I had no stake in, spent a much longer part of the day ‘hobbling’ around New York/New Jersey over Taha’s case and partying the night away. I usually detest traveling but I spent quality time with people I love so the trip was productive.

And I did work. I owed Dave 10 blog posts over the course of the week and delivered duly. From the Senate passing the long-awaited hate crime bill to Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan and Kris Kobach to ICE breaking laws to apologies for racial discrimination and to the undying DREAM Act. And I learned some valuable lessons.

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The last few weeks were thoroughly exhausting. Between the long week in D.C., the non-gay drama (highly boring) of my father and some promigrant bloggers, a horrible court decision against us, the exhausting but exhilarating National DREAM graduation and efforts to save Walter Lara, I am just about ready to move on.

But I made a commitment, hence I am a hero to some, a burden to my mother and I happen to stand in the way of my own dreams by staying here.

Something still troubles me–the way SEIU swept in to co-opt the work of undocumented student leaders the last week of Walter Lara’s deportation. Lets be honest and forthright–Walter would have gotten a stay of deportation without their new media efforts. It is absolutely outrageous that SWER did not get credit for all their hard-work. DreamActivist could have done more had their hands not been tied by lack of software (people are laying eggs on the contract as I write). Of course, the limits and top-down know-nothing nature of SEIU became more apparent when their action this week to sustain momentum asked supporters to ‘Call Congress’ for the DREAM Act. That is such a bright idea! Why didn’t we think of it before now?! Oh, this time, instead of calling our Senators directly, we would have to give SEIU our information in order to call. SEIU should stick to raiding real unions to bring home the bacon. Oops, I guess the real labor movement opposes that too. No offense to Josh Bernstein; his work and support for DREAM students is always welcome.

I just wonder where these DC orgs go when a non-honors student is facing deportation, when Sarjina Emy stayed in detention for two years and finally broke down and went back to Bangladesh, and when a case does not look winnable. Why are some immigrants disposable? My mother never went to college, is a janitor who supports the entire family and pays thousands in taxes; my grandmother does not speak English, never worked or paid taxes in this country, cashes in her social security checks; I have a Master’s but don’t make any financial contributions, hence don’t pay taxes and can’t stand this country–Who would you deport?

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Watch Out for "Undocumented but Undaunted: Immigrant Youth at Work in the Nonprofit Sector"

Exploitation is not waived through consent. It is critical that undocumented labor is not exploited under the pretext that it is unlawful to compensate undocumented students for their work. Doing so serves only to perpetuate a cycle of exploitation, a practice common throughout the history of immigration in this country. America wants and needs undocumented immigrants but is unwilling to pay them for the work they do. These stories reveal the ingenuity, drive, and tenacity of undocumented immigrant youth.

Written by Tam Tran and Prerna Lal and coming soon to Non Profit Quarterly.

The ironic part is that we were not paid for this piece but lets call it our non-profit contribution.

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'I don't support the DREAM Act because…'


My response to that is a shrug.

I don’t care.

If I want your support or opinion, I would ask for it.

The facts are out in the open. We have stated our position numerous times. And now it is not a productive use of our time to regurgitate.

If you are not a member of Congress on our target list, I REALLY DON’T CARE.

There is no point in commenting, sending hate mails, insulting and questioning undocumented student advocacy. It does not bother or unfaze us in the least.

Do not call me and not any other undocumented student that works really hard for their right to attend college and get a job to support their family and community.

Take your advocacy and call Congress. Make an anti-DREAM Act site. Make a network of undocumented youth who don’t want the DREAM Act. Go to your city council, school boards and associated students to get resolutions passed opposing the DREAM Act. Get regional representatives in over 25 states. Form an LLC or 501(c)(3). Get donations and grants for your cause. Grow a mailing list of 60,000. Work over 80 hours per week to defeat the cause and the work of other undocumented students.

It really doesn’t bother me.  I have more important things to do.

And besides, we will win this anyway.

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Filed under Immigration, Videos

Speaking Out At Stanford

This isn’t about me. This is about ensuring that everyone has equal access to higher education in the United States. And if you find that the access is limited, there are two things to do:

1. Fight to change the laws.
2. Leave this country to go somewhere else where they would treat us like humans.

I plan to do both. At least, that is what I meant to say.

I hope this is one of my last speaking assignments — I lack energy and enthusiasm and do not have much to offer at this point. Things have been set into motion with new organizers and a good stream of funding that people will bicker over and I do not want to stick around to watch the ugliness that money brings.

I find it easier to let go and not make this cause about my life. It is a very small part of who I am as a person and making it take precedence over all my other roles, responsibilities and identities was probably not the smartest thing to do.

I had a good question directed at me after the panel where someone asked me “I keep wondering where you will be in 10 years. Was this your calling?”

My answer was quite honest. I will hopefully not be in this country and the DREAM Act would have been a tiny part of my life that I could barely remember. And as for ‘calling,’ I haven’t decided yet. I think it is a responsibility I took on and brought to new and unprecedented levels. Whether or not anyone would ever recognize that with more than a ‘Thank You’ is another matter. The only remuneration is non-monetary–in seeing the empowerment of a new generation of activists around the country who work together to bring about social change.

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Speaking Assignment – San Jose City College

And I just rambled on and on …

Prerna Speaking at SJCC – Life Story from TakePart With Ideas for Change on Vimeo.

I am tired of sharing this ‘life story’ no matter how intriguing it may seem. It’s better when I am given some direction such as ‘talk about the history of your activism and organizing efforts.’ I can draw from my days as a high school policy debater and then coach and judge for the Urban Debate Leagues. That is really how I gained a lot of insight into the injustices that exist in this world and learned about this country. Nothing compared to the feeling of going up against richer and more privileged kids and coming out victorious. Watching empowered inner-city kids debate topicality, rip out critiques of nuclearism and ‘run’ plan-plan counterplans was a complete thrill. It is also at that point that I decided to stray clear from becoming a stereotype and embrace a different path in life, that of a civil rights attorney. I am not there yet and my goals have slightly changed but it is on the agenda. I have lived so many different lives and identities in the past 9-10 years–a policy debater, a student government bureaucrat, a fan-fic writer, a janitor, administrator of 2-3 celebrity fan-sites, a blogger, a tech-geek, an avid cyclist, an immigrant rights organizer, an undocumented student activist, a social-networking guru, and someone who just craves normalcy and boredom. I cannot wait for it to all reconcile.

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If You Support the Work I Do For the DREAM Act

Hop over to the Jenzabar Foundation blog post on DreamActivist and leave a comment by scrolling all the way down (before April 30), to give us a chance of winning a $3 K grant. A comment is a vote and it goes a long way in showing your support for all the work that we have been doing lately.


The grant would help us continue to fund immigrant youth advocacy in the United States. For that matter, every little bit helps us so if you have some spare cash, donations via our Chip-in are much appreciated.

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