National Coming Out Week for Undocumented Youth

National Coming Out Week for Undocumented Youth

By Dave Bennion

While most eyes are focused on the HCR debate right now, there is another high-stakes legislative issue waiting in the wings. For those whose families and communities are impacted by the problematic immigration system, immigration reform is as crucial as anything else on the Democratic agenda.

But right now, immigrants and advocates are wondering whether immigration reform is even on the agenda of Democrats in Congress and the White House, notwithstanding Candidate Obama’s promise to make immigration reform a top priority during his first year in office.

That’s why I was happy to see the Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial about the DREAM Act last weekend.

Under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, a path to citizenship would be provided to these children after they graduate from high school and enroll in college or the military for two years, steps that would help them become productive members of society.
Critics argue such action condones or encourages illegal immigration, but that’s a narrow-minded view of a much bigger problem. There are at least 12 million illegal immigrants who live and work in the United States. Since most are not returning to their homelands, this country must find a good way to move them to permanent-residency status.
Short of a comprehensive national policy on immigration, the DREAM Act bill provides lawmakers with an opportunity to pass one segment of the sweeping reform that’s needed.

President Obama had promised to take up immigration his first year in office. But with other issues on the table, in particular health-care reform and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has been forced to delay tackling another divisive issue.. . .

Although many illegal immigrants work and pay taxes, giving their children a chance to attend college or serve in the military would help those families contribute more to the economy with better jobs and higher wages.

That’s no substitute for a new immigration policy that addresses the larger issues. But the DREAM Act can be a first step to put the children of illegal immigrants on the right path.

More and more people are coming around to the idea that passing the Dream Act would reinvigorate the immigrant rights movement and empower the best advocates of immigration reform, immigrants themselves. I believe the undocumented youth movement will be the core of any successful immigration reform effort.

Last Wednesday was National Coming Out Day for undocumented youth, modeled on the LGBT strategy to raise awareness through disclosure of status. From Mo at

Your courage will open the way to having even more conversations about your immigration status. Sharing your stories will allow us, as a movement of undocumented youth, to grow, as we continue to learn to accept ourselves. By being more open we will begin replacing fear with courage and, ultimately, be united in our demands for change. You will be surprised how little other people know about the realities of being undocumented. People who know someone who is gay or lesbian are more likely to support equal rights for all gay and lesbian people- the same follows for people who know someone who is undocumented.

Gabe speaks from experience about the benefits of coming out:

Tania in Chicago came out to a Tribune reporter, which must have been nervewracking.

If seeing the courage of these undocumented activists inspires you like it does me, join Dream Act students and supporters in a march in support of comprehensive immigration reform and the Dream Act in D.C. on March 21st. There are buses traveling to D.C. from around the country–sign up for a seat here.

~Dave Bennion

[Cross-posted at Citizen Orange]

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