DREAMers Hope To Pressure Congress With Religious Arguments

Girl holding sign at a 2010 DREAM Act rally in New York

Girl holding sign at a 2010 DREAM Act rally in New York. (Photo: Sarah Kate Kramer)

NEW YORK—The coalition pushing for the passage of both a state-level and national DREAM Act to provide additional rights, freedoms and opportunities for young undocumented immigrants is plotting a new course of social action this fall—faith movements.

From September 16 – October 9, religious communities across the country are hosting “DREAM Sabbaths” to raise awareness for the plight of young people eligible for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The effort is being spearheaded by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL). On Thursday in Manhattan, Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who recently revealed himself as an undocumented immigrant and founded Define American, joined young DREAMers and the New York Immigration Coalition in their kick-off event with interfaith leaders.

The event was held at the Judson Memorial Church, which has a deep history of aiding immigrants.

“According to scripture, we must pursue justice, act with compassion, and welcome and honor the strangers among us.  I urge other congregations to hold a Solidarity Service and declare their support for DREAMers and the DREAM Act,” said Reverend Michael Ellick, Minister of Judson and Co-Chair of the Interfaith Network, in a press release.

The Obama Administration recently announced policy changes that allegedly protect DREAM Act eligible youth from deportation, but critics say they do not guarantee protection nor offer needed rights to undocumented youth.

The national DREAM Act offers certain undocumented immigrants under 35 an opportunity to apply for citizenship after two years of college or military service. The New York State bill cannot alter immigration status but would ease their lives by providing additional financial aid for students, access to health care, the ability to obtain drivers licenses and work authorization. The New York State Youth Leadership Council also held a town hall meeting in Brooklyn this weekend to promote the state bill with elected officials and community leaders.

Over 200 “DREAM Sabbath” events are planned, and the activists’ hope is that pressure from faith communities will move Congress to support the bill, which was defeated in the Senate last fall.

AboutSarah Kate Kramer
Sarah Kate Kramer first got hooked on collecting stories as a StoryCorps facilitator, then traveled the world with a microphone for a few years before settling down in her hometown of New York City. From 2010-2012 she was the editor of Feet in 2 Worlds and a freelance reporter for WNYC Radio, where she created “Niche Market,” a weekly segment that profiled specialty stores in New York. Sarah is now a producer at Radio Diaries, a non-profit that produces documentaries for NPR and other public radio outlets.