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Caesar Vargas on the Impact and Influence of DREAMers

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Writing at The Hill’s Congress Blog, Caesar Vargas — a DREAMer and activist who was in Tampa and Charlotte —  has a post-convention analysis on the politics of immigration.

During the Democratic National Convention, Benita Veliz made history during her prime time appearance by being the first undocumented immigrant, or DREAMer, to speak before a national party convention. Her speech was short but graceful: an American story illustrating perseverance and well-deserved academic accomplishments. She praised President Obama’s executive action to lift the shadow of deportation from young undocumented immigrants. The atmosphere of inclusion in Charlotte contrasted sharply with the rhetoric in Tampa at the Republican National Convention. Whether that translates into a substantial bump with the Latino electorate, the polls will soon tell. What is clear, however, is that the DREAM Act and Dreamers, like Benita, are heavily influencing policy positions and party platforms.

That DREAMers are influencing policy and politics is undeniable. At the ABC News/National Journal/Univision forum in Charlotte, our Executive Director Frank Sharry said:

Let’s be honest, let’s give the ‘dreamers ‘the credit they deserve in forcing [President Obama] into action. It wasn’t a good idea that came from the White House. It was an inevitable idea that came from the grassroots.

It did come from the grassroots, led by DREAMers. And Caesar’s post calls out the GOP for its anti-immigrant positions:

While the economy is of primary concern to Latinos, immigration is an issue of personal attention, specially to Latinos of mixed status families. Republican nominee Mitt Romney has endorsed SB 1070, Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, to become a model for the nation, put forth a “self-deportation” policy, and promised to veto the DREAM Act. As a party, Republicans have adopted an inflexible enforcement-only approach to immigration, including a national E-verify and “encouraging” SB 1070 copy cat laws. Republicans have lionized anti-immigrant hawks like Sheriff Arpaio, who has been taken to court by the Department of Justice for discriminating Latinos. And it doesn’t stop on immigration policy. Republicans across the country have been persistent in suppressing Latino, Black, and youth voter turnout by passing voter ID laws and early voting restrictions laws. These laws have been struck down by federal courts in Texas, Ohio, and Florida as denying access to the franchise. These were the reasons undocumented youth in Florida organized and marched against the GOP in Tampa.

He also offers some advice to Democrats, whose work is far from finished:

Nevertheless, Democrats should be cautious to think simply mentioning the DREAM Act or standing next to a DREAMer during a press conference will suffice to gain our support and the Latino vote.

DREAMers have made a lasting political impact and will continue for years to come. There is much work to do. But it is work that falls not only on President Obama but on the American people and our movement to secure accountability from elected officials from both parties. President Obama’s experience as chief executive prompted a modest speech but secured an open vision leaving the political territory open for us to keep him accountable. On November  7, DREAMers will be at the doors of the White House and Congress to remind Democrats that, as Governor Deval Patrick urges, “it’s time to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe.”

Check out DRM Capitol’s Facebook page for videos and photos from DREAM events in Tampa and Charlotte.