Around this time last year, millions of undocumented youth, their family, friends, and immigrant rights activists around the country sat back in disappointment as they witnessed the failure of the Senate to muster up the votes to advance the federal DREAM Act. It was a huge let down after it flew through the House just days before.
Months later in Maryland, however, DREAMers rejoiced as the state version of the bill, allowing undocumented youth to pay in state tuition for college, passed both houses in the legislature in April. Unfortunately, the celebration was short lived as Republicans organized an online petition that effectively gathered 100,000 signatures opposing the bill, causing a halt in its implementation until a statewide public referendum next year.
An uphill battle for comprehensive immigration reform has raged on through the years, and thousands of DREAM act eligible students continue to look for hope amidst a system with seemingly insurmountable odds. With our community in need of talented and dedicated citizens and our country in need of more highly qualified workers, it boggles the mind how some can refuse what many say is such a common sense piece of legislation that will help grow the economy and diversify the workforce to make it more competitive. With so many passionate young people who love the country and who love their home state of Maryland, only positive things can come about the implementation of the Maryland DREAM Act. Why not give these young people the chance to give back to their community in the best way they know how?
Fortunately, this is one of the questions that were addressed at the Maryland & District of Columbia, AFL-CIO 28th Biennial Convention on November 19. As hundreds of labor leaders, community affiliates and allies gathered at the National Labor College to discuss local priorities in the next few years, the Maryland DREAM Act was one of the issues that took center stage. Lead by the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), several of the AFL-CIO constituency groups including the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), Pride at Work (PAW) and the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), submitted a resolution which unanimously passed on the Convention floor. “Many local unions have already been working with Casa de Maryland in support of the Maryland DREAM Act, but now we can say that the hundreds of thousands of MD/DC AFL-CIO union members – from electrical workers to educators to postal workers – all stand in solidarity with these students and their families,” said Monica Thammarath, APALA-DC Convention delegate and Senior Liaison at the National Education Association (NEA).