When Texas Democrats head to the polls for the primaries, whenever the hell that may be, they'll get a chance to throw their support behind the DREAM Act, an immigration reform measure that's sat dead in the water since outgoing U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison famously helped knock it down in late 2010.
A group of college students, local activists, and DREAM-friendly political candidates threw a small rally on San Antonio's Eastside Wednesday pumping support for the DREAM Act referendum set to appear on the state's Democratic primary ballot this year – at or near the bottom, we're told. The referendum reads:
“Any graduate of a Texas high school, who has lived in the state for at least three years and lived here continuously for the last year, should be eligible for in-state tuition at state supported colleges and universities and given the opportunity to earn legal status through a higher education or military service.”
San Antonio's history with the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for foreign-born children brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents, is an intense one. Police arrested over a dozen DREAM Act-supporting activists and students who dug in at Hutchison's San Antonio office in late 2010, demanding a meeting with the senator (they never got one). Two months after her down vote, the Texas senator came back to town telling San Antonio businesses she'd be willing to help craft a newer, lesser version of the measure – one that avoided that pesky “path-to-citizenship” provision – further disappointing activists here. Many of the students that fought hard for the measure have banded together with the San Antonio Immigrant Youth Movement, which they call, “a local movement led by and for undocumented youth” to empower and provide resources for those caught in immigration limbo.
While the upcoming DREAM Act referendum's only a symbolic measure, the state Democratic party's hoping continued fervor surrounding the issue brings voters, especially young ones, out to the primary. “It's a charged issue, and our community's angry this thing has gone nowhere,” Peter Vallecillo, vice chair of the state Tejano Democrats said Wednesday. Carlos de Leon, an organizer and activist with the Brown Berets, remarked, “The failure of the DREAM Act really angered our community, hopefully enough to where they'll come out and vote.” Local activists plan to put the DREAM Act front and center in a rally scheduled for March 31, while also taking part in a larger national action set for Sept. 15 in Washington, D.C.
Texas Dems opted against considering other measures that arguably could have boosted voter turnout, especially among the young and other Democratic base voters. While referenda on DREAM Act and legalizing casino gambling in the state made it on the Democratic primary ballot, a measure advocating for marriage equality notably did not. Dan Graney, president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus remarked at the time, “Unfortunately, many (State Democratic Executive Committee) members are afraid to let Democratic voters have their say on issues they regard as too controversial
I don't understand the fear about allowing voters to weigh in on this.”