Last night in his State of the Union address, President Obama described the challenges faced by many of the nation’s undocumented youth and many of them are already responding favorably.
Lucy Allain, directly affected by the issue, responded to the President’s words via a video she uploaded. “With your State of the Union address,” she said, “You motivated the country, with an idea of a better America. I’m a DREAMer and I believe myself to be an American. I have hope.”
Allain noted, however, that the problem for her and many other people who are denied the chance to earn citizenship is that “Congress is obstructing the DREAM Act. And, in light of the congressional gridlock, you need to take action as the President.”
The DREAM Act was a bill intended to provide permanent residency for undocumented people who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 18 and have graduated from a U.S. high school.
Allain had previously confronted GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney at a Sheraton Hotel in New York City. Of the experience, Allain said that he shook her hand, but quickly withdrew it when she revealed she was undocumented. Romney, she said, then proceeded to look at her as though she were a criminal.
In his 2008 election campaign, Obama noted, “One thing we can do immediately is pass the DREAM Act.”
Allain is concerned, however, that three years later, this still has not happened. She quoted Obama’s latest words about undocumented students: “Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away.”
Well, said Allain, there is a potential law that would do just that – the DREAM Act.
Tania Unzueta, organizer with Chicago’s Immigrant Youth Justice League, spoke with People’s World about her views on the President’s position.
“I think he’s been saying all this since before he’s gotten elected,” she said. “It feels like there’s a lot he could do to alleviate the issues that undocumented youth in this country currently face.
“There are things he could do beyond just comprehensive immigration reform – little administrative things that could be do-able right now.” For example, she noted, “An undocumented worker who uses fake credentials should not be permanently banned from the country.”
Tackling small individual issues like these, she felt, would still be taking steps forward.
“The President is right [to say] that everyone’s playing politics,” Unzueta conceded. “Both the Republicans and the Democrats.” But what it all comes down to, she concluded, “Is that it needs to stop being about the politics – it needs to be about helping people.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, leader of the nation’s largest labor federation, liked what the president had to say about making things better for immigrant youth.
“The President gave hope to our nation’s young people with his words of support for DREAM students, immigrants brought to this country by their parents and committed to the quintessentially American vision of hard work at school or in military service,” he said in a special statement the AFL-CIO issued today.
Immigration Equality, a national organization fighting for equality for undocumented people, with a particular focus on those in the LGBT community, also responded positively to Obama’s State of the Union Address:
“The President laid out an eloquent vision of an America where everyone plays by the same rules, and shares the same opportunities and chances,” they said in a statement. “It is past time to tackle comprehensive immigration reform and, as the President pointed out, it is imperative that Congress pass the DREAM Act to extend opportunity to undocumented youth.”
“We live in fear of deportation,” Allain concluded. And to the President: “We, the nations of DREAMers, support you. But you must support us.”
Photo: Demonstrators gather in San Bernardino, Calif. in protest of the Secure Communities law, which causes local police to essentially act as ICE agents. Gabriel Luis Acosta/AP