By Soo Ji Lee
As President Barack Obama begins his second term with a focus on overhauling the United States’ immigration system, calls for immigration reform have taken a new turn on campus as “The Dream Is Now” campaign solicits student pressure on Congress to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
Among other initiatives, the online campaign — which is led by philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs MBA ’91 and filmmaker Davis Guggenheim — has focused on college outreach, enlisting students as campus ambassadors to compile sympathetic stories from peers and mustering support for the DREAM Act.
“Our goal is simple — to put a face on immigration reform,” said Ruben Candeo, the campaign’s college outreach director, in a press conference call on Tuesday. Juany Torres ’13 has played a prominent role in Stanford’s immigration reform movement as The Dream is Now’s lead campus representative and student ambassador. A daughter of immigrants and a native of San Antonio, Torres framed the issue of immigration reform as one of personal significance.
“My parents wouldn’t have the opportunity to be citizens and residents here legally if it hadn’t been for 1986 amnesty,” she said. “It’s important to give that opportunity to other people.”
Supporters can sign petitions, upload photos and share their stories through videos on the campaign’s website. A documentary by Guggenheim on the subject will also premiere in April as part of the campaign.
“If we’re not careful, all this momentum which is building because of the last election and the urgency might just go away,” Guggenheim, who directed Waiting for Superman and An Inconvenient Truth, said in the press conference call. “There are dreams of people are hanging in the balance. If we don’t do everything we can, it would be a shame.”
Some videos published by the campaign have already gained significant publicity. One such clip, featuring University of California, Berkeley student Terrence Park, focuses on his undocumented status and potential financial difficulties if he accepts a spot in Yale’s biostatics program. The video has received over 12,000 views to date.
“There is so much potential here to generate real grassroots energy and support to fix our broken immigration system,” Guggenheim said.
While Stanford currently has only two student ambassadors, including Torres, the DREAM Act has also gained support from senior administrators. In December 2010, President John Hennessy and Harvard President Drew Faust co-wrote an editorial calling for Congress to pass the act. Torres, however, argued for immediate efforts to cultivate campus awareness and involvement.
“We should have coalitions built within student groups to continue the conversation,” she said. “I do believe that we have the support but it might not be as visible as we want it to be. And so this project is really going to allow us to shed some light on that.”
Phil Salazar ’16 described his involvement with the campaign as a complete coincidence, having run into a campaign camera crew at El Centro Chicano. Salazar’s video is now one of many of the campaign’s website and, having since found out that a close friend is undocumented, he emphasized the potential to change perceptions of the undocumented community on campus.
“He doesn’t have the same research opportunities or summer opportunities here at Stanford…I think that’s a little unfair,” Salazar said. “There’s a sweeping generalization by a lot of people that they’re freeloaders or they shouldn’t be here. That’s a tough generalization to make. They’re no different from us.”