National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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“We will continue to accomplish the unbelievable”

December 23, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

DREAM Press Conference


The following guest blog post is from Julieta Garibay, a young DREAM activist who was in Washington, along with hundreds of her fellow activists, in the days before the votes in the House and the Senate on the DREAM Act.  Julieta, who holds a Masters in Nursing from The University of Texas at Austin, gives her impressions of the DREAM votes in Congress, and reflects on how far the undocumented Dreamers have come in the years leading up to this moment.


This December was unforgettable; our historic victory in the House of Representatives was an experience of a lifetime. As I held hands with veteran Dream leaders and new ones, we cried for joy when Speaker Pelosi said 216 votes in favor. 


However, the vote in the Senate for the DREAM Act was only a reaffirmation that Dreamers and families alike must continue to fight for our liberty and justice. As I sat in the Senate gallery, I remembered that, six years ago, the concept of sharing my story as an undocumented immigrant in public was not only foreign, but also incredibly terrifying. We did not have “education-not-deportation” campaigns, the resources or networks we now have. Although I was fearful of deportation, I refused to be silent anymore. I decided to tell the world that I was undocumented, others needed to know that I existed. Today, Dreamers have liberated themselves and say “undocumented and unafraid” in meetings, with friends, in the media. They too have refused to live in the shadows.


For the past years and even decades, many of us have yearned to be accepted and recognized as part of this country—to no longer be rejected or denied.  I clearly remember years ago, as I read some “official governmental research article” and I saw the words “illegal alien,” I asked my friend, “are they referring to us?” and she said “yes.”  It saddened me to know that not only did fear-mongering individuals referred to me as an illegal alien, but that even professionally-written documents had such concept for me.  This past week, we have won that battle of labeling; major media outlets referred to us as “undocumented students.”  To me, those few words made me realize that one more battle on behalf of Dreamers was won. 


We have taken the concept of liberating ourselves to a whole new level. Never in the history of DREAM advocacy had we filled a Senate building as we said the pledge of allegiance, nor had the military Dreamers been able to openly show their love, devotion, and their immense desire to serve this country.  Congress members and staffers alike knew that the Dreamers were there.  They heard our stories, some prayed with us as we prayed in their offices.  Our presence was acknowledged.  We were no longer in the shadows, and for that we won!


As we said the pledge of allegiance right after the vote, you could hear and feel that we Dreamers felt it from the bottom of our hearts.  It was no longer words; it was our conviction that we are Americans.  As I stood amongst my fellow Dreamers, I too recited the pledge loud and clear.  I am part of this nation and I do believe we will have “liberty and justice for all.” As we huddled outside the gallery with hundreds of Dreamers, disappointed and crushed, we once again made our presence evident.  We held our ground outside the Senate gallery as we held each other.  We cried and prayed.  Not even the security could move us.  As Dreamers continued to arrive and join the huddle by the hundreds, I knew that our fight would not stop.  We are together in this fight, and we will make sure that our dreams and determination will not be stopped by the vote of a few congress members.


Although I no longer am qualified for the DREAM Act because of the age cap, I decided to fight for the win that Dreamers dearly need.  In my attempt to do anything in my power to help it pass, I decided to give Sen. Hutchison my bachelor and master degree as well as my RN license.  I needed to show her that my most prized possessions were in her hands.  She needed to know that she could make the difference between me having some pretty frames on my wall and being able to truly fulfill my professional career.  Sadly, she looked straight in my eyes and said, “I will vote No … until next year.”  I can only say that neither Texas Dreamers nor I will ever forget. 


I cannot continue to be living in fear; I cannot let my profession and education go to waste.  I will no longer tolerate injustice. We have dared to dream and we will not give up.  We have come too far and have overcome many obstacles and I can assure you that we will continue to accomplish the unbelievable.  We will reach high mountains.


A 30-year old dreamer

Julieta Garibay


Image: Maurice Belanger

Minority in Senate Block Action on DREAM

December 21, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

On Saturday, December 18, a minority of Senators used a procedural vote to stop the DREAM act from being considered on its merits in the Senate.  DREAM supporters garnered the votes of 55 Senators, but for the procedural cloture vote, opponents needed only 40 votes to prevent the bill from being considered.  They had 41 votes.  Five Democrats joined 36 Republicans to block the DREAM Act. Click on this link to see how your Senator voted.  (Note: The Senate was voting on the House version of the DREAM Act, which was attached to another bill, H.R. 5281, the Removal Clarification Act of 2010.)  Democrats voting against cloture were: Baucus (MT), Hagan (NC), Nelson (NB), Pryor (AR), and Tester (MT).  Three Republicans joined Democrats to end the filibuster: Bennett (UT), Lugar (IN), and Murkowski (AK).


The Senate vote came ten days after the House passed the DREAM Act by a vote of 216 to 198.


The Debate:  You can read more about the debate on the Senate floor in this blog post.


Vote Broadcast Live:  In the end, there were few surprises in how individual Senators voted, based on signals or statements they made in the days leading to the vote.  Arguably, the biggest news of the day was that the nation’s two Spanish-language television networks—Univision and Telemundo—broadcast the vote live.  The vote was brought into Latino homes in a way that would not be possible if the airing was limited to C-SPAN 2.  Dozens of vote-watching parties were organized around the country.  As one DREAM student said in a press conference the day before the vote, “This is the World Cup [of Senate votes].”  The live broadcast of the Republican-led effort against the DREAM Act only served to reinforce the notion that the Republican brand is not welcoming of immigrants. 


Profiles in Courage, and of Cowardice:  In his statement on the Senate floor just prior to the vote, Senator Richard Durbin (IL), the chief sponsor of the DREAM Act in the Senate, asked his colleagues “for an act of political courage.”  If the Senator’s colleagues had one-tenth the courage of the DREAM students themselves, this problem would be solved, rather than kicked down the road for a future Congress.  Hundreds of students were in Washington as the vote approached, and they gave meaning to the phrase, “leaving no stone unturned.”  They were an ever-present force in the halls of Congress, speaking to anyone who would listen—and to many who wouldn’t.  They conducted press conferences and staged numerous events on Capitol Hill to bring attention to their plight.


They were joined in their effort by national partners—many of which are part of Reform Immigration FOR America—including the National Immigration Law Center, America’s Voice, NCLR, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, First Focus, Service Employees International Union, and the AFL-CIO.  Also helping the DREAM students while they were in Washington were faith groups such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and the United Methodist Church.  Farmworker advocates, including Farmworker Justice and United Farm Workers, sent out alerts to their members, even though AgJOBS was not paired with the DREAM Act, as was thought possible earlier in the month.


In the Senate, Senator Durbin was tireless in his shepherding the bill through the Senate.  He also spoke passionately at a press conference with DREAM students after the bill’s defeat.  Majority Leader Reid has been a consistent supporter of the DREAM Act, and put it on the Senate schedule three times in this session.  Other Senators who spoke in support of the Act during debate on the floor include Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Bennet (D-CO), Gillibrand (D-NY), and Schumer (D-NY). 


Senators McCaskill (D-MO), Dorgan (D-ND), Conrad (D-ND), Webb (D-MI), Lugar (R-IN), Murkowski (R-AK), and Bennett (R-UT) should be commended for showing some political courage by casting their vote for cloture.  On the other hand, Senators Brownback (R-KS), Snowe (R-ME), Kirk (R-IL), Brown (R-MA), Collins (R-ME), and Lemieux (R-FL) were disappointing in their collusion with the obstructionists who wanted to stop the bill from being considered on the merits.  Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT, a previous cosponsor of the bill), avoided voting altogether.


In the weeks leading up to the votes in the House and Senate, the Administration also made a push for the DREAM Act, as previously noted in this blog post.


Bad Times for ICE:  For the next two years, little is expected from Congress, and attention will be shifting to the Obama Administration and the enforcement agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  While ICE is often portrayed as a villain by some advocates, in reality, especially in this case, it is Congress’s failure to fix the broken immigration law that leaves ICE stuck with enforcing a law that makes no sense.  DREAM advocates and their many supporters will be looking to the Administration for some sort of relief for the students.  If ICE shows leniency, it will come under pressure from members of Congress who want nothing more than the deportation of every one of the DREAM students.  If the agency goes after the students, they will come under pressure from members of Congress who are supporters of DREAM.  They will also have to contend not just with the network of students who will come to each other’s aid, but with the millions of Americans who have become supporters of the students during this fight, and who will now do everything they can to protect the students. 


It’s probably safe to say that DREAM students will be very low priority enforcement targets for ICE.


Follow-up: Let your Senators know how you feel.  Send a letter to your Senators to express your thanks for their support for the DREAM Act or to express your disappointment in their rejection of this common sense solution.  You can send a letter from our Web site.



The Tired Arguments Against the DREAM Act

December 21, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

DREAMers praying


On December 18, the Senate voted on a motion to end a threatened filibuster against the DREAM Act.  A majority of senators supported the motion, but it failed to get the necessary 60-vote supermajority.  Once again, a minority of Senators succeeded in preventing the Senate from solving a problem, and the problem will be kicked over to a future Congress.  (For more on how the vote went, read our policy update.)


As is common in these polarized times, anyone who was listening to the debate might have thought that Republicans and Democrats were talking about two entirely different bills, or were talking about two entirely different populations of people who would benefit from the bill.


The Saturday morning debate was conducted concurrently with debate on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which the Senate also voted on.  For those speaking against the DREAM Act, there were several recurring themes, none of them convincing. 


Lindsey Graham, Jon Kyl, and others insisted that “we cannot have any legalization program before we secure the borders.”  “Our citizens have a right to be safe and secure.”  It’s hard to argue with that.  What these Senators neglected to mention, though, is that the government has greatly escalated border enforcement in the last few years.  Most recently, an additional $600 million was allocated for border security in an “emergency” spending bill passed in August.  The Border Patrol budget is now $3 billion—nine times what it was in 1992.


With all of the federal resources on top of state and local resources, several border communities now rank among the safest in the U.S.  El Paso, Texas, was recently ranked as having the lowest crime rate of all cities in the U.S. with a population of 500,000 or more.  A recent survey of border residents along the length of the border found that a majority feel safe in their neighborhoods.  The border is secure.  It’s time to move beyond an argument that had more relevance a decade ago.


Senator Kyl claimed the bill would lead to “chain migration.”  That argument sounded like a talking point given to him by a lobbyist, which he didn’t have time to vet through his staff.  The bill that he was voting to block would have granted a 10-year conditional status to DREAM students, after which they would gain legal permanent resident (LPR) status.  After another three years as LPRs, they would be eligible to apply for citizenship.  Only after becoming U.S. citizens, would they be able to sponsor their parents.  If their parents were here illegally, they would have to leave the country for 10 years before being eligible to return.  The whole process would take in the neighborhood of 25 years before the parents, if still alive, would gain permanent resident status—if they are still alive.  DREAM students, once they become citizens, would also be able to sponsor their brothers and sisters, but that process would likely take even longer, given the long wait times for visas allotted to brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.


An argument made by Senator McCain seemed to be an even greater stretch than most of the others.  He said that “we are just six weeks out from an election in which the American people repudiated the agenda of the other side.”  Americans have been very upset about the state of the economy, and Republicans made major gains in the last election, but to say that was a “repudiation” of the Democrats’ entire agenda is not supported by public opinion surveys.  For example, a recent story in the Washington Post about a public opinion poll conducted by the Post and ABC News noted that the public still trusts President Obama “marginally more” than Congressional Republicans.


“The poll suggests that the election, while perhaps a vote against the status quo, was not a broad mandate for Republicans and their plans. The survey also underscores the degree to which Americans are conflicted about who they think is setting the agenda in Washington.”


Regarding the DREAM Act, an opinion poll conducted by First Focus, an organization concerned with families and children, found that, when the contents of the DREAM Act was described to them, 70% of the American public supported the DREAM Act.


Another theme of the opposition was procedural; that DREAM was being rushed through, and that there was insufficient time to consider the Act. For example, Senator Hutchison (R-TX) said in a statement that, “[s]uch serious legislation should be brought up in a time frame that allows for consideration, deliberation and consensus through full debate and amendments.”  This is the 10th year the DREAM Act has been in Congress.  These procedural arguments, made by Hutchison and others in states with large Latino populations, sounded more like they were made so that the Senator could play both sides of the fence: She can say that her objection wasn’t necessarily to the DREAM Act itself, but to the way it was brought to the floor.


One of the major themes of DREAM Act supporters, articulated by Senator Schumer and echoed by Senators Gillibrand and Durbin, was that the legislation is part of America’s “long and difficult march to equality.”  In this frame, the movement to pass the DREAM Act is the latest chapter in historic efforts to gain rights for women, African-Americans, gays and lesbians, and others who have been discriminated against over the years.  The DREAM students have been brought up in the country but, because our laws are broken, they are prohibited from working here and pursuing their dreams. 


When the debate was over, no minds were changed.  For the thousands of students watching in the Senate gallery and across the country, the vote was heartbreaking.  But they are already preparing for the next phase of their fight.  They are not going away, and neither are their millions of supporters across the country.


If your Senators supported the DREAM Act, please thank them.  If your Senators did not support the DREAM Act, express your disappointment and let them know you are watching. Whichever way your Senators voted, you can go to our Web site here to send a letter.


Image: United We DREAM

On Border Security, We’re Chasing the Minnows

December 15, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

This post was written by Forum intern Charlie Gillig

The U.S.-Mexico border winds its way through 1,969 miles of geographically and culturally diverse landscape. Just as varied and bending is the Obama Administration’s U.S.-Mexico border security strategy, unveiled back on March 29, 2009. Since then, the administration has spent billions of dollars to fight border violence, prevent the illegal trafficking of drugs, arms and currency, strengthen Mexican border law enforcement institutions and control illegal immigration. The result of this strategy has been a multitude of new projects and programs run through various government agencies.

It would be difficult and unfair to generalize today about the success or failure of all these initiatives taken together. However, there are disturbing trends in the administration’s border security policy that need to be addressed immediately in order to ensure a safe, secure and efficient U.S-Mexico border.

One such trend is a focus in administrative policy on small-scale illegal activity instead of tackling the leadership and major actors in criminal organizations.  A recent review from the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (OIG) on Project Gunrunner, a project designed to curtail illegal arms trafficking across the border, found that the chief agency responsible for this initiative, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), was too often investigating single-defendant cases instead of targeting larger organizations by prosecuting “higher level traffickers and smugglers.”  Further, some ATF personnel were discouraged from working on complex conspiracy investigations that would target smuggling leadership.  In other words, the ATF targets the easily-replaced organizational minnows, while arms-trafficking’s major perpetrators continue unchecked. 

The problems the OIG found with Project Gunrunner are emblematic of the way border enforcement is being conducted by the government overall.  The government’s border security mission is being sidetracked by a focus on minor actors.  The mission would be better served when the larger syndicates, the drug cartels, arms traffickers and human smuggling organizations are targeted and dismantled.

Another example of misplaced priorities and funding is Operation Streamline, which brings low-level criminal charges against virtually all immigrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. It is well-documented that this program diverts scarce resources away from the prosecution of more serious crimes on the border and towards the prosecution of individuals who have little prosecutorial value and to whom prosecution is not proven to be a deterrent to migrating for work.  Migrant workers are not the individuals who make the border unsafe.  Rather they are more commonly victims of violence from smugglers and cartels. The administration’s funding and policy priorities should not focus on prosecuting them to the detriment of true security efforts.

The misdirected energy spent on Operation Streamline has gone so far as to undermine the administration’s priorities in Project Gunrunner.  In 2009, the ATF prepared a case against a key gun dealer who appeared to have sold hundreds of automatic weapons to straw purchasers for the cartels. However, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix, already swamped with cases devoted to Operation Streamline, declined to take the case because it would have required too much time and resources to develop further. The Arizona Attorney General eventually took the case but a judge dismissed it before ever going to a jury.

Resources to maintain and improve the safety and security of the U.S.-Mexico border are not unlimited. With so many avenues for action to choose from, we urge the Obama administration to target the organized criminals who cause havoc and suffering at the border, not the individual migrants caught in the storm. The administration should do this by spending a greater percentage of funds on tracking, arresting and then prosecuting the leaders of crime and smuggling syndicates. This is the straightest, safest and most humane path towards truly improving security in the border region.

The DREAM Moves a Step Closer to Reality

December 10, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

President makes DREAM Calls
President Barack Obama, with Assistant to the President for Legislative
Affairs Phil Schiliro, makes phone calls in the Oval Office in support
of the DREAM Act, Dec. 7, 2010.  (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


Last week was a remarkable one in Washington. 


The highlight of the week was passage in the House of the DREAM Act, H.R. 6497.  For the first time in the 10 years since it was first introduced, the House passed the legislation.  That milestone was reached only after an unprecedented effort to wring votes out of the House Democratic and Republican caucuses.  


The DREAM students themselves have staged a remarkable effort.  Actions have been conducted all over the country to bring attention to the legislation and to try to persuade lawmakers to act.  In Washington, a contingent of DREAM students have been in town for the last couple of weeks, wandering the halls of Congress, personally presenting their cases to members of the House and Senate, staging various actions, keeping track of the scraps of intelligence they’ve gathered, and trying and trying again to win over their target group of Representatives and Senators.  In their courage, they are setting a good example for our lawmakers.


On the inside, the Administration deployed an unprecedented number of high-level officials.  Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz, and Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Director Joshua DuBois, among others, all participated in conference calls with the press or with various constituencies, penned op-eds, sent letters to the Hill, and or made calls to Members of Congress. 


The President himself was on the phone trying to persuade Members of Congress to support the bill, and the Administration released an official Statement of Administration Policy (SAP), expressing strong support for the DREAM Act.  Jill Biden, teacher and wife of Vice President Joe Biden, placed and op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune and other papers in support of the DREAM Act.

Around the country, immigration advocates encouraged their supporters to call the House and the Senate.  In one 24-hour period, leading up to the House vote and including a shift in attention to the Senate, nearly 80,000 calls to Congress were made by DREAM Act supporters using a special number set up by Reform Immigration FOR America.  That number of calls does not include calls made directly to Representatives and Senators, or calls made through the Capitol switchboard.


Beyond the immigration community, dozens of newspapers around the country have published supportive editorials about the DREAM Act, and a survey of public opinion, conducted by First Focus, a group concerned with children and families, found that 70% of the general public favored the DREAM Act when the contents were described.


The outpouring of support certainly grabbed the attention of House leadership, which put DREAM on the House floor, even though there had been reluctance among some Members to act before knowing what the Senate would do. 


During the debate, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus rose to speak in support of the DREAM Act.  It was a visual contrast to the mostly older white men who spoke against it while feigning concern for the out-of-work American worker.  I say “feigning” because, when the topic of debate earlier in the year was directly about unemployed American workers, some of these same opponents of the DREAM Act (including Lamar Smith, for example) were voting against an extension of unemployment benefits.  With that history, the concern for the American worker expressed during the DREAM debate seemed a bit hollow.


Just prior to the vote in the House, the top two Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, came to the Floor to speak in support of the DREAM Act.  The 208 Democrats who voted for the bill were joined by 8 Republicans, and the bill was passed by a margin of 216 to 198. 


Action now moves to the Senate.  On Thursday, Democrats conducted a procedural vote resulting in a delay of consideration of the DREAM Act until other matters related to the budget and taxes are resolved. 


To send a letter to your Senators asking them to support the DREAM Act, CLICK HERE.  For more information about the DREAM Act, click here.  You can also sign up for our alerts and updates in the box in the right column of this page.

“Speak Up, Stop Discrimination”

December 10, 2010 - Posted by Lena Graber

Human Rights Immigrant Rights


Friday, December 10, 2010, is International Human Rights Day, and this year the theme is: Speak Up, Stop Discrimination.  Today the United Nations is honoring human rights defenders who fight discrimination around the world.  Human Rights Day marks the anniversary of the UN’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.


Human Rights encapsulate a wide range of individual rights and freedoms deemed essential and inherent to all people. Many organizations focus on particular branches of human rights, from the right to life or freedom from excessive and arbitrary detention, to the rights of women, indigenous peoples, or immigrants.  As discrimination against immigrants – in employment, in law enforcement, and in social discourse – continues to be a major human rights issue in America, we commend local groups around the country who are raising up immigrant rights in the International Human Rights Day events.


The city council of Virginia Beach, in a Resolution to Recognize Human Rights in Virginia Beach, specifically recognized the immigrant history of Virginia in its commitment to providing “an environment that is welcoming and protects the human rights of all in our community.”  A number of local groups contributed to efforts with the council to approve the resolution: Virginia Organizing, Hispanic Community Dialogue, Human Rights Commission, and Reform Immigration for America.  This kind of positive recognition of immigrants and their contributions to our nation, which we also saw in the Utah Compact this fall, seems an important first step towards this year’s theme of stopping discrimination. 


Centro Presente, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, along with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), is celebrating International Human Rights Day with a special “awards” ceremony for flagrant human rights violators, including Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Governor Jan Brewer, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 


The AFSC is also celebrating International Human Rights Day with a know-your-rights training to support Haitian immigrants.  In Los Angeles, the Southern California Immigration Coalition is having a rally in MacArthur Park with the theme: Every Immigrant Worker Has Human Rights!  The Green Party of Monroe County, NY, is hosting a community dialogue about immigrant rights as human rights.  Norwalk Community College in Connecticut held a human rights day panel focused on immigration, with a special performance by the NCC Chorus.  In Minnesota, the state’s Department of Human Rights hosted a number of human rights workshops including a presentation on immigration relief for children and other vulnerable groups, as well as on union rights and discrimination, and another on hate crime legislation. 


That’s a handful of the work going on by champions of human rights and immigrant rights across the nation.  Let’s hope that the rights of DREAM students are recognized by the Senate next week in what would be a fitting commemoration of International Human Rights Day.


Update: Congratulations to our friend Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, who on this Human Rights Day was honored, along with two others, by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Secretary Clinton presented them with the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award for their contributions to the promotion and protection of human rights both in the United States and abroad.


Image by Flickr user trevorstone.

Are you a Keeper of the American Dream?

December 01, 2010 - Posted by Katherine Vargas




This post was written by Katrina Shankle



At its heart, the ritual of immigration to this country is founded in the idea of the American Dream. Immigrants for hundreds of years have journeyed to the US with the quest of fulfilling their own dream. From generation to generation we keep this custom alive through the realization of our dreams. The National Immigration Forum will be celebrating this great tradition on Thursday December 2, during the 10th annual Keepers of the American Dream Awards Event at the Newseum's Knight Conference Center in Washington DC from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM.



Ms. Tamez is responsible for directing and advising all of Microsoft’s U.S. and global immigration programs, policies and practices; her voice has played a critical role in Microsoft’s efforts to shape immigration changes for highly skilled workers. Ms. Wondemu has shared her love of her culture by opening one of the first Ethiopian restaurants in the District; since its opening she has become one of the DC area’s most successful foreign-born women restaurateurs. Ms. Szekely opened a museum and cultural center, the New Americans Museum, in California that honors the immigration experience and infuses the process of becoming a new American with added purpose and honor. USHLI has developed into one of the most powerful, nationally and internationally recognized Latino organizations in the country; its mission is to fulfill the principles of democracy by empowering minorities, immigrants and similarly disenfranchised groups, and by maximizing civic awareness and participation in the electoral process. USHLI is led by Dr. Andrade, one of the only two Latino recipients in history of the Presidential Medal “for the performance of exemplary deeds of service for the nation” and “excellence in promoting leadership and civic participation”.



The event celebrates the heroes who embody the spirit of immigrant achievement and the American Dream, who contribute significantly to the well-being of immigrants in America, and who enhance our appreciation of immigrants and the immigrant tradition.This year’s honorees are Lydia Tamez, Zed Wondemu, Deborah Szekely and the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI).


In addition to hearing from the honorees, this year’s KADA event will feature an art collection by Artist Helen Zughaib. Ms. Zughaib was born in Beirut, Lebanon, living mostly in the Middle East and Europe before coming to the United States to study art. She believes that the arts are one of the most important tools we have to help shape and foster dialogue and positive ideas about the Middle East. Hopefulness, healing and spirituality are all themes that are woven into her work. As an Arab American, Helen feels that her background in the Middle East allows her to approach the experiences she has in America, in a unique way, remaining an observer of both the Arab and American cultures.

The artwork itself depicts the stories her father would share with her of life leading up to his migration to America. He would tell these stories as a way to further the family’s knowledge of their own history. In a post 9/11 world, Helen recognized the value of sharing her family history with others as well. Her hope has been to combat some of the negativity and correct misconceptions the public have of Arab-Americans. By sharing her own family story she believes people will identify with its common premise- that most of our family histories are motivated by the same compassions, wants and needs.


If you don’t live in Washington or cannot attend the event, you can still support us by sharing your own story and tells us why YOUR FAMILY IS GRATEFUL FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM. Here is my story and what the American Dream means to me and my family:


For more information on the event visit: 





Share your own American Dream story

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