For Immediate Release December 23, 2010
Contact: Jane Yoo, NAKASEC, firstname.lastname@example.org, 718-710-2277 Dae Joong Yoon, KRC, email@example.com, 213-434-4267 Sik Son, KRCC, firstname.lastname@example.org, 847-208-5426
In the Aftermath of the Senate Dream Act Vote… Voices Remain Tenacious. Communities Ready Itself for a New, Tougher Congress.
What happens to a Dream deferred…. On December 18, 2010, the U.S. Senate denied hopes and dreams to millions of undocumented immigrant students and their families during a cloture vote on the Dream Act (55-41 with 60 votes needed to pass).
Leading up to the vote in the Senate, there was a nationwide surge for this 9-year old piece of legislation that would grant certain group of eligible undocumented immigrant students a chance to pursue higher education, enlist in the military and have the prospect of adjusting their status. EunSook Lee, executive director of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) says, “In the past few weeks, young immigrants from throughout the country and within our community have fought their fears to share their stories. On December 18, our senators were asked to be as brave and vote in favor of the Dream Act. It would have been the right thing for the young DREAMers and for America. In the aftermath of the Senate vote, we need to remember the bold champions and cowardly naysayers in Congress.”Locally, our DREAMers and DOers…. In Los Angeles, members of the Alliance of Korean American Students in Action (AKASIA), a youth group of the Korean Resource Center, stood strong and offered each other support and encouragement as, one by one, newer members began to come out of the shadows and shared their stories publicly. They also phonebanked, participated in media events, attended vigils and continued providing immediate help and consultations to AB 540 students in the area (AB 540 is California’s in-state tuition bill).
“The Dream Act vote this past Saturday was very heartbreaking. Our lives were being voted on,” said AKASIA member Angela Kim. “But, despite the failure of the Senate to pass the Dream Act, I will not stop. My resolve is to continue the fight. I have given my all these past few weeks and felt the power of my actions. I know we can only get stronger.”
In Chicago, Korean American Resource & Cultural Center’s youth council, Fighting Youth Shouting out for Humanity (FYSH) members worked specifically to move Senator Mark Kirk to support the Dream Act. They also participated in a vigil that put the spotlight on the mental well-being of undocumented immigrant youth who not only face daily fears and struggles, but put in tremendous advocacy efforts while going to school and working at the same time.
“The moment I heard the final vote count, I felt a wave of sadness overcome me – a sadness that could only be so great because it was felt by millions of others. It grew into a gray, quiet emptiness.” Says Sarah Kim, who wished to go by an alias. “But I will keep fighting, humbly and honestly, because I know merit is always rewarded. This generous country has showed me enough to prove it.” Since coming to the U.S., Sarah has excelled in her studies and hopes that one day she will be recognized for her contributions and not singled out as an outcast.Another chapter unfolds… As reiterated by numerous people across the country days following the Senate vote, the movement can only get stronger.
“I learned that change takes courage and time. I am confident that justice never goes backwards – it [Dream Act] will pass one day. Perseverance is the key to success,” student leader and AKASIA member David Cho stated. He watched the Senate vote with fellow DREAMers at UCLA where he is a student and leader of the school’s marching band. He has also been very vocal about his status and helped fellow AKASIA members tell their stories. David’s story has been shared on floor speeches by Senator Barbara Boxer during the September Dream Act vote and by Senator Dick Durbin before the recent Senate cloture vote.
Adds Ju Hong, a student leader and blogger for NAKASEC’s New Organizing Project, “2010 was one of the toughest years to push the immigrant rights agenda. We had a lot of things going against us. The immigrant community also suffered from mass deportations and harsher enforcement policies.” He continued saying, “But it was in this environment that many students across the country participated in hunger strikes, held civil disobedience actions, called, organized rallies and events. With their hard work and perseverance, the Dream Act was brought up for a vote. It’s disappointing that the Senate took away our dreams, but I am hopeful. I am hopeful because the movement is rapidly growing and becomes more energetic, powerful and smart. We will continue to keep the Dream alive.”
NAKASEC humbly and unreservedly recognizes all the students and community members who led the effort to pass the Dream Act and immigration reform this past year. We also thank our champions in Congress, Senators Dick Durbin, Richard Lugar, Robert Menendez and Harry Reid for their unwavering leadership on behalf of immigrants and their families. We also extend our appreciation to California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and express disappointment at Illinois Senator Mark Kirk. Finally we would like to recognize our Asian Pacific American members of Congress who, regardless of party affiliation, stood with immigrant youth. They are Representatives Joseph Cao, Judy Chu, Charles Djou, Mazie Hirono, Mike Honda and Doris Matsui.
To view pictures from recent DREAM Act actions, please visit http://bit.ly/eRLFKH To read stories of DREAM Act beneficiaries, please visit http://bit.ly/eajJYR
The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) was founded in 1994 by local community centers to project a national progressive voice and promote the full participation of Korean Americans as a part of a greater goal of building a national movement for social change. NAKASEC is based in Los Angeles and a D.C. office opened in September 2008. NAKASEC also has affiliates in Los Angeles (The Korean Resource Center) and in Chicago (The Korean American Resource & Cultural Center).