New Blog Stories- Community Engagement and the Immigrant Nonprofit Sector – Part II

Since the passage of Arizona’s SB 1070 in April 2010, national attention has focused on the introduction of copy-cat immigration enforcement legislation at the state-level.  However, such a focus misses the wider range of cultural and political initiatives taking place throughout the country that welcome immigrant presence and advance immigrant integration and immigrant rights.

This is Part II of a series of blog stories about issues affecting grassroots and community organizations in the nonprofit sector.  This month we hope to continue to inspire dialogue around the theme of “Community Engagement in the Immigrant Nonprofit Sector.”  The purpose of this thematic blog is to create a conversation between practitioners and scholars about the role that nonprofit organizations are playing in addressing the many challenges facing immigrant communities, families, and individuals in the United States.

Community Engagement and the DREAM Act

by Catherine E. Wilson

Villanova University

In response to a decade-long inability to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) act at the federal level, thirteen states have passed versions of the DREAM Act which allow undocumented youth to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.   Spearheaded by Rep. Tony Payton (D-Philadelphia), Pennsylvania became the latest state to introduce DREAM Act legislation in June 2011.  Two months later however, a package of bills (HB 138, HB 856, and HB 857) – modeled after Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration enforcement legislation – subsequently were introduced.

DREAM Activist Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization comprised of undocumented youth and allies, occupies the epicenter of the fight to pass the DREAM act in the state.  However, the group faces an uphill battle to rally supporters around their cause.  Headquartered in Philadelphia, the group is experiencing difficulty in engaging undocumented youth and adults as well as voting-age citizens around its desired legislative effort.

Can DREAM Activist Pennsylvania learn best practices from other successful nonprofit organizations fighting for the cause?  If so, what are these best practices?

How can DREAM Activist Pennsylvania empower undocumented youth and adults to “come out of the shadows”?

How can the organization simultaneously educate immigrants and citizens on its movement?

How can the organization make immigration an everyday or mainstream topic – as opposed to a hot-button issue during the election cycle? 

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