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CA Youth Lifts Voices of Those Ignored in Immigration Debate

CA Youth Lifts Voices of Those Ignored in Immigration Debate

Published: June 3, 2011
rally for immigration rights

Pablo Paredes and young "dreamers" of 67Sueños Project

Photo: Josue Rojas

A youth-led collective based in Oakland CA strives to tell the stories of everyday young people who are often left out of the national dialogue on immigration reform. Their work organizing gatherings of migrant youth and recording their stories is coordinated by Pablo Paredes of the American Friends Service Committee’s San Francisco office.  

 67 Suenos  (67 Dreams)  was created in response to a recent report  by the Migration Policy Institute, which estimates that 67 percent of undocumented youth and young adults wouldn’t qualify for the educational path to legal status offered in the federal DREAM Act. These 67% would have to continue a life in the shadows as undocumented or for a small percentage enlistment in the armed forces would also grant them a path to legalization via the DREAM Act.

But most undocumented youth are not on a path to college. In fact, less than a quarter of foreign-born Latino adults, who comprise 80 percent of the undocumented, have either a GED or a high school diploma.  Thus the collective aims to give voice to that large group who are neither criminals nor class valedictorians.

 “Our young folks don’t want to be separated from their one cousin who did get a 4.0,” says Pablo Paredes. “The struggle is the same struggle, and one deportation in that family effects the entire family.”

The roots of the collective came from workshops at Met West High School, where Pablo met with 20 youth who were interested in amplifying the voice of the 67 percent. Starting last October, a core group of seven began holding gatherings of migrant youth in the Bay area and interviewing undocumented youth from their schools, communities and day laborer centers.

 The interviews form the core of the project, which also includes creating a mural, building a website and lobbying local and federal lawmakers to include these youth in an expanded DREAM Act.  The mural, which will be 96 feet by 24 feet, will go up this summer on the wall of the AFSC building in San Francisco, a few blocks from San Francisco’s city hall.

Partners include artists, a design class from University of California Davis Campus, and NPR’s Story Corps, which has helped the collective capture the stories of over 20 undocumented youth. For more visit 67 Suenos.

The collective hopes that by lifting up the stories of this majority, they can help change the national dialogue on immigration reform to address the needs of these most vulnerable migrant youth.

ColorLines' online magazine is among the first to cover the project.