A Grassroots Victory for Immigration Activists
On Tuesday, February 23, a small battle was won in small-town Virginia. It was not won in a field with weapons but in a council room with words. On one side sat roughly one hundred community members of all ages, races, and backgrounds. On the other side sat a council composed of seven mostly conservative white men and one white woman. The subject of discussion: the DREAM Act.
Several months before, a twenty-four year old Mexican immigrant named Isabel had a dream to start a movement in her hometown of Harrisonburg, Virginia. An undocumented immigrant, Isabel knew it was crucial for her community and her council to support the DREAM Act. She petitioned dozens of her closest friends and family to join her and, thus, DreamActivists Virginia was born. The activists began meeting in Isabel's home and later moved to a local restaurant as the group grew in size. The first goal was to meet individually with each member of the council, keeping in mind the conservative stances of several of the members. The second task was to gain support from community members. As the activists traveled to area churches, schools, and businesses telling their stories, a movement of supporters began to form.
The movement continued until the day of the meeting. On that Tuesday evening the meeting room was filled to capacity as the activists approached the council with their personal stories and the details of the DREAM Act. The presenters ranged from undocumented students to an attorney to a high school teacher. After a 30-minute presentation and several minutes of questions and discussions, the council unanimously voted in favor of the DREAM Act.
The celebration after the meeting was emotional as activists, students, teachers, citizens, undocumented immigrants, young, and old hugged each other, cried together, and applauded one another. Although this is a small-scale victory it is a victory none the less. The activists didn't stop with this one victory, either. Instead, they set their sights on new goals and larger successes, and the DREAM Act movement in Harrisonburg continues to grow. To learn more information about the DREAM Act or to join your local chapter, visit dreamactivist.org.
Megan Grove is a former campaign intern for Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR).