2013 ALBA/Puffin Award Presented to United We Dream – Speech Notes – PDF

2013 ALBA Puffin Award to United We Dream Speech Notes

A more deserving and moving award to introduce is hard for me to imagine-­-Thank Alba Puffin and Perry Rosentein

And more than anything thank the Dreamers and United We Dream

The Dreamers have led one of the most inspirational organizing struggles of our time

Their struggle to give status to undocumented young people is at the forefront of the dramatic changes taking place for immigrants in this country

The Dreamers stories, courage, risk taking, and putting their bodies on the line Should brings us all to tears —

Their decade long organizing efforts Teach the rest of us how it is done

In thinking about how to introduce them

I asked their lawyer Michael Wishnie what he thought­ Michael is here-

Michael said they see themselves as a collective movement–and don’t like individual Commendations

But this principle should not underestimate the risks each dreamer took in coming out publicly

Stating and stating loudly: Undocumented Unafraid

Imagine spending almost your whole young life here in the United States with your friends, your school, parents, all the surrounding fabric that makes up life

Knowing no other life and publicly announcing your undocumented status

In the face of hysteria by some about immigrants-and when hundreds of thousands being deported

1.5 million by obama way more than bush risking all

including return to a country you may have left in diapers

So each dreamer, each person who stood up and said–Undocumented and Unafraid is a hero

In thinking about the dreamers I recall best that day in dee 2010 when the dream act was up for vote in a lame duck session of congress hundreds of dreamers were there with signs Undocumented and Unafraid

think of the courage undocumented flooding our congress won in house

lost by 5 votes in senate

tears and hugging afterwards–just recall how moved I was at the incredible strength of these young dreamers

and the new strategy focus on obama get him to do by executive action what congress wld not

but he refused

said he had no authority to do so dreamers and their lawyers said otherwise

Dreamers engaged in escalating street protests; cross country walks; and civil disobedience

At one meeting when obama said I cant do anything

What did dreamers chant from the audience???

Si Se Puede Si se puede

And Yes in June 2012 Obama did what he said he could not

Deferred action on deportation for many dreamers for 2 years remarkable victory

Here is what a friend wrote me on that evening about the reaction of her dreamer friends–

a reaction that I am sure was taking place all over the country:

A 20 yr-old Dreamer called and said she’d gotten the call from DC at 2am and had been crying all night and morning.

Later that day, she shoved three of us in a car and demanded we teach her to drive–something she could not do in where she lived as an undocumented.

We spent a half-hour in a Methodist church parking lot, cracking up as the car lurched this way and that. She kept practicing what she wanted to say to a police officer who might pull her over.

 And that evening, joined a group of Dreamers in their celebration of “Administrative Relief Day.

Maybe I just haven’t gotten out in a while, but I don’t have a recent memory of  that kind of jubilance. Two people would be dancing in the middle of a circle at the club and just wound up hugging. Or everyone would    wind up hugging.

One of the other kids, had just graduated law school as the first undocumented student in his state to do so and then found himself prohibited to actually practice. Administrative Relief signified that he would indeed become that state’s first undocumented lawyer.

“You have to do our papers!” someone said. “Of course, that’s the entire idea,” he assured them.

One by one, people shared or exclaimed their pride in what they’d accomplished together. Perhaps my favorite exchange from the night:

“Guys, we’re gonna able to work!”

“Nah man, we’re gonna be able to drive!”

Friday was a day to celebrate the utterly inspirational, decade-long organizing of Dreamers, who teach the rest of us how to organize– and perhaps, hopefully, a real, material lifestyle difference for hundreds of thousands of young people. 

The Dreamers learned from others as we can learn from them

The civil rights movement was won when the oppressed sat in at the lunch counters and rode the freedom busses; each victory was forced from recalcitrant officials

The lgbt movment’s successes were because of their coming out

And now the hunger strikers at Guantanamo are taking control of their own lives­ and making Guantanamo an issue

Religious people can preach; lawyers can file lawsuits; politicians can make promises or not

but in the end what moves a struggle toward victory is for the oppressed–those most affected–to lead; and put their bodies on the line

That is what the dreamers did

That is what they are still doing

Our job is to support them in every way we can si se puede