DREAM Act discussion draws campus crowd

More than 80 members of the campus community, including some self-described “Dreamers,” gathered at the Free Speech Café Wednesday for a panel discussion examining the historical context and current debates surrounding immigration reform.

At the federal level, the proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would grant citizenship to current college students and military enlistees who were brought to the United States as dependent children. Numerous versions of the DREAM Act have failed to win passage since the bill was first introduced on Capitol Hill in 2001.

Lisa Garcia Bedolla

Lisa Garcia Bedolla. (Roibín Ó hÉochaidh photo)

Earlier this year California lawmakers passed AB 130 — the first of two bills known collectively as the California DREAM Act. — which allows undocumented students to receive limited financial aid. The second bill, Ab 131, which would make public funds available to undocumented students, is awaiting the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown.

“We created this problem and we are all responsible,” said Lisa Garcia Bedolla, associate professor of language and literacy, society and culture and chair of the Center for Latino Policy Research at UC Berkeley.

“Immigrants are part of the fabric of our society,” she added. “They are here because of economic-political structures that are beyond their control and that the United States is complicit in.”

The panel for “The DREAM Act: 10 Years of Activism and Debate” also included Aarti Kohli, director of immigration policy at the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at Berkeley, and Kevin Escudero, an ethnic studies doctoral student.

The event, which was sponsored by the Free Speech Movement Café Educational Programs Committee, kicked off the campus’s annual Constitution Day program to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.

International House will host the second Constitution Day event Thursday, Sept. 22, when University of Pennsylvania political science professor Rogers M. Smith will deliver the Jefferson Memorial Lecture. “The American Experiment: A 21st Century Assessment” will explore America’s unique constitutional democracy.