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Old White Guys Focus on Militarizing Border, While Real Americans Descend on DC Looking for Reform

Thousands rally for immigration reform while a few want to continue to militarize the border.

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“[Some people view] undocumented Americans as lawbreakers who are trying to harm American society, without a consciousness of the root causes of migration and the realities of people's lives when they do come here,” says Amanda Gutierrez, advocacy analyst and manager at UWD.

“Dreamers didn't just pop up out of nowhere. There's a whole generation of parents that nurtured and inspired our community and our movement, and they've been elevating their own voice and their own stories now as the fight has shifted to focus on immigration reform.”

At Wednesday's rally, a 17-year-old girl was part of the diverse lineup. Katherine Tabares is a classic Dreamer. Undocumented, the president of her high school class, and a youth leader in a New York-based social justice organization, she fits the mold of what President Obama has termed, “the best and brightest.”

But when Tabares took the mic, she told her audience of thousands, “ Today I am here not to talk about my story anymore. I want to talk about this amazing woman who's next to me. My hero. She's my mother.”

With her hand on her mother's shoulder, Tabares explained how they had migrated from Colombia three years ago, and ever since her mother has worked “from Monday until Sunday” as a home health aid in order to give her daughter the opportunities she wouldn't have had in their home country.

“I want you to think about your mother, your father, your cousins, your aunts, your uncles, all of your family members,” Tabares said. “They are the original Dreamers...I am tired, just as many of you are tired, of seeing our parents being oppressed and denied work opportunities not because of their skills, but because of a nine-digit number that supposedly defines a person in the United States.”

Hours after the rally dispersed, several news outlets ran stories detailing information originally reported in Wednesday's issue of the Wall Street Journal. Sources close to the negotiation process provided details of the emerging bill, affirming that border security will trump a timely pathway to citizenship.

Under these proposals, undocumented people living in the United States would not be eligible to apply for a green card until 100 percent of the border is under surveillance, 90 percent of people trying to cross illegally are apprehended, and all businesses use an E-Verify system – which is infamous for its high error rate -- to avoid hiring undocumented workers. The soonest these goals could be met is projected to be 10 years from now.

In the meantime, some kind of probationary status could be available to undocumented people who meet certain conditions. It isn't clear yet what those are, or how much protection from deportation such status would afford. People will continue to be excluded from accessing social services, even though they pay taxes that fund such programs.

Some things are clear, though. Thousands of people are willing to travel across the country to Washington to assert their rights in spite of the risks posed by their legal status. Dreamers who have been successful in turning public opinion in favor of young, undocumented people seeking an education are using their momentum to elevate other immigrant narratives. It may be an uphill battle, but somewhere on the other side is a path marked “citizenship.”

Anna Simonton is a filmmaker, freelance writer, and a spring 2013 intern at the Nation magazine.

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