Posted by on December 20, 2010 in Blog

Arab Americans Mobilize on DREAM Act
Eyes Fixed on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

As Congress was considering passage of the DREAM Act, Arab Americans across the nation organized their own efforts to support it. The DREAM Act, a bill that provides a pathway to legal status for students who were brought to the United States as children and who met a set of stringent requirements, was heralded by its supporters as a step in the right direction for immigration policy reform.

Mere minutes before the House voted on the much-anticipated bill, community organizers, activists and organizations contacted their representatives in favor of passage. The same was true before the Senate vote. The bill ultimately passed in the House of Representatives in a vote of 216 to 198. It failed to pass in the Senate where it was defeated this past Saturday. While not likely to be taken up in the next Congress, it will remain a target goal for Latinos, Arab Americans, and other immigration advocates.

In the Arab American community, many saw the DREAM Act as an important element in fixing a broken immigration system. Current immigration practices, some argue, are mainly an issue for the Latino community. But leading up to the vote, it became clear that various constituencies had many young people facing deportation to countries mainly unknown to them because of circumstances beyond their control. Viewing the DREAM Act as part of the larger immigration debate, Linda Sarsour, Advocacy and Civic Engagement Coordinator at the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC) said, “Fixing our broken immigration system…is not just a Latino issue it’s an American issue, and an issue close to the hearts of the Arab and Muslim communities.”

Sarsour added that NNAAC members all across the country “worked tirelessly making phone calls, writing letters, and attending rallies and press conferences with our allies to pass the DREAM Act.”

In Philadelphia, Marwan Kreidie said the local community took a similar approach stating, “We supported the DREAM Act and worked with our coalition partners to call on our members of Congress to urge passage.  We just hope for better results next time.” 

The sizable community in Michigan worked hard to keep their elected officials on the right side of this bill. Nadia Tonova, Director of NNAAC, a project of Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), said; “we have worked to organize around the DREAM Act by hosting phone banks to generate calls to Congress in support of the legislation.” And in Chicago, the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) worked closely with other Illinois-based immigration organizations and the Latino community to organize a collective approach to this vote and broader immigration policy.

The DREAM Act is but one aspect of the larger immigration debate. Its failure in this Congress will not deter its supporters, including Arab Americans, from advocating for immigration policy reform. AAI President James Zogby added, “I am so proud of the work so many Arab Americans did to support the DREAM Act. As a community of immigrants and children of immigrants, we remain committed to comprehensive reform and like the DREAM Act and the abolition of NSEERS. We will renew our effort in the 112th Congress.