The online team at America’s Voice is blogging live from the conference in Minneapolis. Check back here for updates throughout the conference, and check out our live tweets here.
9:00 AM: Veteran America’s Voice blogger, Jackie Mahendra, joins Yahaira Carillo, Heather Cronk, Felipe Matos, Trevor Thomas, and Joe Sudbay to discuss the DREAM Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — particularly how advocates from both issues overcame cynicism and “forced Washington to act” — in their panel “Life Since Vegas: How the Netroots Forced Action on DADT and DREAM.”
9:20 AM: Yahaira, talking about her own struggle as an undocumented immigrant who is also queer re: discussions with politicians about their support of one issue over the other: “As if I could split myself apart from myself, which really isn’t possible.” Felipe Matos compounds: “How am I supposed to look at myself in the mirror and say ‘Today, you’re an immigrant’ and then the next day, decide on being gay. It’s just not possible…people are constantly trying to put the wedge between us and it doesn’t need to be done.”
Joe Sudbay: “The only people who benefit from divisions between the DREAM Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell are the people on Capitol Hill, who don’t want to vote on either.”
9:45 AM: Yahaira: “Education is a human right, and to say that people can’t have it is unacceptable. At that sit-in (she’s talking about this sit-in at Senator McCain’s office in Tucson, Arizona), 4 out of the 5 us were gay…and we still are. We need to look at organizing in a way we haven’t seen before that helps multiple issues, because we’re multiple issue people.
10:00 AM: Question from the audience: “We had success with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but not the same success with DREAM Act – what is your strategy for moving the DREAM Act forward?”:
(Before passing the question on, Jackie notes that the DREAM Act did pass in a historic vote in the House, and got majority support in the Senate, which was quite remarkable.)
Felipe: “That day, I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or sad that the DREAM Act had come so far, but had failed. It wasn’t until [hours later the bill failed] that I got around to thinking, ‘oh. Damn.’ But in a time of great uncertainty, we united. This is the time we have the most power over Obama. When the time is right, we can pass the DREAM Act.“
To which Joe responds: “The Administration did not have to defend DOMA – the same language they’re using with DOMA is the same language they’re now using on the DREAM Act. What did we find out in February? The President decided not to defend DOMA. When you hear the White House say there’s nothing we can do, you can do something.”
10:05 AM: Question (from someone all the way from Australia): “How did people from both of the issue communicate with each other?”
10:15 AM: Question: “What do I need to do to help as someone not totally invested in the issue?”
Trevor Thomas: “People speak to members of congress, and call them. We’ve actually been in meetings where representatives will cite the statistics about how many people have talked to them about a particular issue, and the numbers aren’t always on our side.”
Yahaira: “Talk about our stories. We give those stories to you so you can help people and change their perspective. If you’re a blogger, blog about it – make a video about it. If you’re an activist, organize around it.”
That’s a wrap from this panel – more to come later!