National Latina/o Law Students Association supports the DREAM Act

In NLLSA on May 16, 2010 by Brenda Montes Tagged:

May 17, 2010 marks the 56th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), the landmark Supreme Court decision that prohibited racial segregation in public schools. Brown laid the foundation for shaping future policies regarding civil and human rights by recognizing the adverse psychological and social impact of racial discrimination. Brown’s legacy is now in jeopardy. The growing sentiments behind Arizona’s immigration enforcement bill (SB 1070) and the recent curtailment of ethnic studies programs in Arizona (HB 2281) are a direct assault on the civil rights of undocumented immigrants, the Latino community, and all minority students.

The National Latina/o Law Student Association is run exclusively by and for Latino law students. As such, we recognize the importance of continuing the fight for racial integration in higher education. In honor of Brown’s legacy, NLLSA joins the efforts in support of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). The DREAM Act is a bill that would give immigrant students the chance to become legal residents if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and attend college or enlist in the military for at least two years.

The need to remember and reclaim Brown’s legacy could not come at a more urgent time. Currently, an estimated 65,000 undocumented students graduate U.S. high schools each year, but a large number of these students are unable to pursue a college degree because their legal status disqualifies them from receiving publicly funded financial aid. Many are honor-roll students, valedictorians, and community leaders, not to mention aspiring lawyers, teachers and doctors. Without access to educational financing and a path to citizenship, these talented students are barred from fully contributing their talents and potential to our society and communities.

In coalition with United We Dream and other student group activists, NLLSA encourages congressional members and community organizations to support the DREAM Act before the end of this summer. We urge our members, alumni, and supporters to sign the online petition as a first step: to join our fellow activist students in support of the DREAM Act.

National Latina/o Law Students Association (NLLSA) is a tax-exempt section 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation serving as a conduit for Latina/o law student voices. Founded on principles of social, ethnic, racial, gender and sexual equality, NLLSA is focused on advancing Latina/o academic success and commitment to community service. NLLSA is fueled by a progressive coalition-building approach to addressing the legal issues affecting Latinas/os around the nation. For more information, please visit


20 Responses to “National Latina/o Law Students Association supports the DREAM Act”

  1. In the past few weeks, the entire nation has faced two of the most discriminatory pieces of legislation in recent American history. The state of Arizona created a measure justifying law enforcement profiling against undocumented populations and, separately, banned ethnic studies courses. Not only have undocumented populations become a more quantifiable target to be persecuted, but the new measures seek to vanish ethnic histories, as well!

    Though the policies will undoubtedly create miserable conditions for thousands of individuals in Arizona, effects that are already seen in the psychological distress that fearful, undocumented immigrants are showing, these laws present a unique springboard for a better future. The Dream Act is one possible, very viable, route to address the dilemmas that a substantial segment of the entire undocumented population face. Independent of politics, ethnic histories, and controversy, the Dream Act is a promising piece of legislation that is historically bipartisan and will provide unimaginable opportunity to thousands of our brothers and sisters.

    I am very appreciative of the National Latina/o Law Students Association’s stance on the Dream Act. The Dream Act has had so many opportunities to become a law at the national level and it is only a matter of time before solidarity efforts like yours will be heard. On behalf of all of the people that I know that are in this position and based on my experiences, knowledge, and sincerity, I thank you for the support.

    Luis M. Magallon Garcia

  2. As someone whose parents have fled a war torn country so that I can be raised here, I’m baffled at how fleeing from a war is considered a legitimate form of immigration while people who suffer from economic conditions, who have to choose between either abject poverty or ‘breaking the law’, are considered illegitimate, as citizens or even as people.

    But people rarely see it as an issue of the situation of the undocumented immigrant, and often see it in macro terms that gloss over what is really going on. It wasn’t until I’ve become friends with people who have been undocumented, who had parents that were undocumented, or even friends that are not yet citizens, that this issue started to hit home. And it stopped becoming about ‘stealing jobs’ or ‘economic impacts’, and it became a human issue.

  3. The DREAM Act sounds like a wonderful piece of literature that can help to take down the stereotypes that exist with Latino community, although I sort of disagree with Luis’s comment about how racist the Arizona bill is (SB 1070). I think we should keep in mind that the undocumented population is, in fact, a severe drain on the health care industry that definitely is a large factor in the growing costs of hospital fees, as well as a drain on other industries in America, particularly in border states. It’s a fact that the undocumented population constitutes a VERY substantial amount of the crime rate, even violent crimes, and, from what I’ve heard from someone who used to live in Mexico near the border, prisons in Mexico actually release inmates with money for them to cross the border back into the U.S.
    There’s no question that the undocumented immigrant situation is a very serious matter, and a lot of the negative sentiment is because of the amount of crime that undocumented peoples produce, but the DREAM Act can help keep productive citizens in the country, while status quo, and future measures, can help to keep the criminals out.

  4. Do you have any more info on the Dream Act? Also, I’d like to invite you to write an essay on my blog: It’s brand new, but it’s going to be huge as soon as I get some content posted. I’m starting a discussion on the American Dream, and gathering essays all across the country that express various aspects of each author’s American Dream. Let me know if you’re interested!

  5. I grew up in a very conservative household. Although my parents regularly denied they were as far right as they claimed, they often resorted to racism to influence their decision on things. I remember hearing “no, we shouldn’t shop there because I don’t want to deal with those Mexican kids running around the store” yet never thought twice about their words. It wasn’t until I met some people (who later became good friends) that I began to call into question the way I was taught to think. I feel like the DREAM Act will pave the way for a similar process. Many people I know are taught that undocumented immigrants are a costly burden who steal money from education, medical care, welfare, etc., yet never call into question why they think that. Furthermore, it breaks my heart to see such blatant racism being used to justify policies like the two that were recently passed in Arizona. The DREAM Act, to me, is what will force many to see the people their day to day decisions effect. It will force people, like those who insist on stripping ethnic studies programs away from schools, to better examine their actions. I am a firm believer that when we see our actions effect REAL PEOPLE, that’s when change begins. That is what the DREAM Act is to me.

  6. My thoughts on the dream act don’t seem all that bad at all. “The DREAM Act is a bill that would give immigrant students the chance to become legal residents if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and attend college or enlist in the military for at least two years.” I say going from “illegal” to “legal” isn’t such a bad thing. In fact I find moving on to be vital to the United States being able to move on to other issues because as a black body I would not be in existence if my ancestors weren’t brought here by “illegals”.

  7. My Law School Grad Speech:

    Hello everyone. I am honored to address you all today. My name is Alejandra Cruz. I am a second-generation Mexipina—born into a family of working-class Mexican and Filipino immigrants in California’s Central Valley. I stand before you today in awe of the sacrifice of those who came before me so that I could graduate from UCLA School of Law. Somewhere in all the believing in myself, doubting myself, and challenging myself—I made it through law school and I am so proud of my accomplishment. In thinking about how to address my fellow graduates I realized one simple but allusive fact about the present moment in my life—I am, right here, right now—as we speak—living my dream.
    I know I, for one, have had my share of tearful, emotional, no-one-understands-me, can’t-stand-the-pressure, break-downs since I enrolled here three long years ago. But in spite of many “what-have-I-gotten-myself-into” moments, we are all sitting here, waiting to graduate from UCLA Law—one of the most prestigious and challenging law schools in the nation; in what is—in my humble opinion—the most vibrant and dynamic city in the world.
    Hoping to gain more insight into the intersection of school, living your dreams, and deep-seated feelings of anxious uncertainty, I grabbed my copy of “Underground Undergrads,” a book that chronicles the lives of a handful of the hundreds of undocumented immigrant students who attend this university and who are graduating with us today. Amongst the accounts of immigrant students from Vietnam, El Salvador, Korea, Iran, the Philippines—one student from Mexico tells her story, “My immigration status has been a huge factor in my life in the United States. It has brought many challenges, including the inability to obtain financial aid, grants or scholarships, to receive a valid state-issued ID or license, or to have job opportunities that match my education level. These obstacles have contributed to my family’s life of poverty. The feeling of constant uncertainty has affected me, yet I have overcome almost all the obstacles that have come my way […] and I am obtaining the education I always desired at the University of my Dreams, UCLA.”
    This short passage touches upon two important themes, highly relevant to our gathering today, the role of law in shaping the lives of all Americans and the common struggles and challenges that most of us have endured to get to where we are today. As graduates of UCLA Law we gain a unique sort of privilege. This privilege amplifies our voices and the voices of the individuals and communities that we choose to represent. If I have learned one thing over the past three years it is this; contrary to traditional notions of the legal profession—the role of a lawyer has never been and can never be a neutral position.
    The concept of working in the name of “justice” can mystify and weigh upon the best of us—it can seem a bit obscure with years of contradictory case law and counter-intuitive court decisions running through our overworked brains.
    When I think of “justice” I think about my family—I think about what would make it possible for my two nieces and nephew to live their dreams like I have. Last summer I was able to work with immigrant parents who entered the US “without inspection” and are raising both non-citizen and citizen children. The women I worked with had a range of motivations for coming to the US. Some were victims of violence—domestic or otherwise, some endured abuse and sexual assault as children—reports of which were ignored by police, and some could no longer stand the dehumanizing poverty of their home country. When they came to the US, they were treated as criminals and their children—with and without papers—were treated by individuals and institutions as second-class Americans. What all my clients had in common was that they challenged themselves to at least attempt to live their dreams and worked tirelessly so that their children could have a real shot at living their dreams in the US.
    When I think about realizing greater “justice” I think about fighting poverty, defending America’s beloved public school system, I think about working to dismantle institutional obstacles to opportunity—like racism, sexism, and anti-gay bigotry. Most of all, I think about how much we all have in common. How many times have we felt helpless and frustrated when confronted with the vast chasm between how things are and how they should be? How many times have we wished we could do more to help our families live joy-filled, comfortable lives—free from harassment and turmoil?
    We still have a lot to learn but somewhere in the mess of 50-pound backpacks, memo-writing, and cold-calling we have been equipped with the starter-toolkit we need to change everything—to not only challenge ourselves but to challenge the status quo. Since we’ve been in law school the US has seen two very-prominent law school graduates realize their dreams—our nation’s first black President and our nation’s first Latina Supreme Court Justice. In the years to come we’ll see another wave of “firsts”, many of which will come to pass through the hard-work and dedication of UCLA Law’s Graduating Class of 2010. To all our friends and family; teachers and mentors—thank you for all the love and support. To my fellow graduates—congratulations. We did it!

  8. Great post. I think that the DREAM Act is definitely necessary, when you look at what states like Arizona are doing. The federal government needs to show some leadership – not in the form of building a wall, but in the form of easing the restrictions on obtaining citizenship and allowing people to love their lives.

  9. Immigration reform is urgent and necessary. Addressing the problems of undocumented immigrants in the US has been shown to likely improve our tax revenues and GDP, something that should be welcomed during a harsh recession. Further, many congressional “leaders” agree on many tenets of comprehensive reform, including increased border control and paths to legalization. Something like the DREAM Act, focusing on pragmatic, common sense legalization for many who did not choose to come here on their own accord, is the type of approach we need.

    These students have proven themselves to be valuable members of society, and those who seek to come here and do harm to others should not be rewarded, something we can all agree on. I am not crazy about the military enlistment option, if only because too many latinos have already sacrificed their lives for a country that too often neglects our community. But I guess I would be naive to not believe that many latinos still seek joining the military, if only for the social safety net it (is supposed to) provides. But it is clear that students who are making the most of their situation, trying to enhance their social standing, striving for an education, clearly want to be a part of our country. And we should let them.

  10. Great post, I’m glad NLLSA is stressing the importance of passing the DREAM Act. I’d like to suggest one correction though. You say “The National Latina/o Law Student Association is run exclusively by and for Latino law students.” It’s true that the organization is run exclusively by Latino law students, but I’m not sure that it’s only “for” us. Increasing diversity and success among a more diverse group of legal professionals is good for everyone. I see the organization as beneficial to those who belong to it as well as the greater legal community.

    On a similar note, and I realize we all know this, the DREAM act would allow our nation to be stronger, more productive, and more cohesive by valuing the contribution and worth of every individual who has grown up in the United States.

    I truly believe that creating avenues that help traditionally undeserved groups is in the best interest of the entire (legal or national) community.

    • I agree Amanda, NLLSA is dedicated beyond the needs of Latinas/os. The DREAM Act affects students of all races and backgrounds, and it would be a mistake to believe that supporting the DREAM Act and standing up against discriminatory immigration laws affect only Latinas/os. Thank u 🙂

  11. The Dream Act supports children who’s only crime is following their parents. It’s time these children who grow up studying hard, working hard, and supporting what is functionally the American Dream be given a real chance to contribute to it without feeling like criminals.

    Any organization that believes in justice should support the Dream Act. I am a supporter of the Dream Act and have been for years. I hope many other organizations follow in the foot steps of the National Latina/o Law Student Association. I encourage all of those on the fence about the Dream Act to ask themselves: Do I expect my children to pay the price for my crimes? If not, support the Dream Act and give undocumented children a chance. This isn’t about free citizenship; it’s citizenship attached to hard work and support for the US.

  12. DETAINED in Arizona: Four Student Immigrant Leaders

    Peacefully Resist Current Immigration Law, Urge Passage of DREAM Act

    As of 6:00 PM PST today, Mohammad, Yahaira, Lizbeth and Raul, an Arizona Resident, have been arrested and detained after their day long sit-in at Senator John McCains Office in Tucson, AZ. Tania, who was not detained, has been designated as spokesperson and will be relating the experiences/thoughts of the group during the action.

    Senator John McCain offered the students a meeting in order to discuss the Dream Act, however, the students recognize that this is insufficient and that immediate action is needed to pass the DREAM Act!

    Tucson, Arizona. May 17th, on the anniversary of landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education, Arizona law enforcement arrested four undocumented leaders of the immigrant student movement in addition to Arizona native Raul Alcaraz. Lizbeth Mateo of Los Angeles, California; Tania Unzueta of Chicago, Illinois; Mohammad Abdollahi of Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Yahaira Carrillo of Kansas City, Missouri; were detained Tucson, Arizona, after staging a sit-in at Senator John McCain’s office. With this challenge to local and federal law, these youth hope to highlight the urgency of legislative action in Congress, and catalyze mass grassroots mobilization to pass the DREAM Act before June 15th.

    These four leaders are risking deportation from the United States in the hope that this action will make a significant contribution to the fight for immigrant rights. In response to the onslaught of enforcement-based immigration law, they staged a sit-in at Senator McCain’s office, and urged congressional leadership to champion the DREAM Act and the values it represents: hard work, education, and fairness.

    Lizbeth, 25, an organizer with DREAM Team Los Angeles, states, “There are already ten other states across the country considering immigration legislation similar to Arizona’s: legislation that is anti-family, anti-democratic, and anti-freedom. Police states and enforcement are quickly becoming the standard, and we are running out of time. We are going to pass the DREAM Act because it is based on freedom and equality.”

    Mohammad, 24, co-founder of DreamActivist.Org, a resource web portal for undocumented students, said in a statement: “Never in our history has it been American to deny people their civil rights. We have decided to peacefully resist to encourage our leaders to pass the DREAM Act and create a new standard for immigration reform based on education, hard work, equality, and fairness.”

    At least 65,000 undocumented immigrant youth graduate from high schools every year, and many of them struggle to attend institutes of higher education and the military. The DREAM Act will grant youth who traveled to the United States before the age of 16 a path to citizenship contingent on continuous presence in the country, good behavior, and the attainment of at least a two-year university degree or a two-year commitment to the armed forces.

    “During the civil rights movement, African-American students were arrested for sitting down at lunch counters. We’ve been detained for standing on a sidewalk. We can’t wait any longer for the DREAM Act to pass,” said Tania, 26, co-founder of the Immigrant Youth Justice League, and immigrant rights organizer in Chicago.

    All four are leaders in their own communities and have dedicated years to work for immigrant rights, legalization for undocumented immigrants, and the DREAM Act. “Dr. King spoke of a dream of equality overcoming fear. Well, the fierce urgency of our dreams has overcome any kind of fear we may have had before. We can’t wait,” concluded Yahaira, 25, a founder of the Kansas Missouri Dream Alliance.

  13. I was a U.S.Marine officer ’69-’74, serving in VietNam. While there, a fellow Marine officer, Robert Garza, was flying marines into combat by helocopter. Robert entered this country from Mexico without authorization at the age of two, graduated from college with an engineering degree, piloted Marine helocopters, and when I met him, directed the MacDonald-Douglas Delta II rocket assembly program in Long Beach. Times have changed. A young Robert Garza today would be reviled by many of his fellow Americans; he couldn’t go to college let alone fly for the Marine Corps, but he could be arrested and deported.

  14. I couldn’t be more thankful for the National Latina/o Law Students Association’s efforts to promote the DREAM Act. Throughout my life i have been exposed to the harsh realities and the struggles that exist for the undocumented population. My parents and family were/are undocumented and i have seen how hard it is for many of my family members to access higher education. The DREAM Act would provide people with the opportunity to make something of themselves through gaining an education. It would also provide those undocumented students who have made it through the education system with the opportunity to get a job in their area of study. Thank you for your support of the DREAM Act!!!!!

  15. Excellent post, Brenda. And a strong and courageous move by the NLLSA, particularly in light of the anti-immigrant and anti-Latina/o campaign exemplified by the recent laws in Arizona (which you highlight in this post). I appreciate your efforts; you’ve energized a fellow supporter of the DREAM Act to get more engaged.

    En solidaridad,


  16. I am glad to see that NLLSA supports a bill that will impact my life in a positive way.

    Sometimes, I fear, people forget that families migrate. As a kid who came into this country at a young age, I was just following my parents.

    I really do hope that this will be the year when this act will pass. The time is right and it will help out many students who are in the same situation as I am. Students who feel as though they don’t belong in the country that they call home. Students who just want to continue the lives that they have here with their parents, friends, and family members.

  17. The DREAM Act must pass. PERIOD.

  18. do you people know when the bill will pass, or about

    • Sorry for the late reply. Agressive lobbying is being done right now, there is approx. 4 weeks left to get this passed.

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