María Antonietta Berriozábal speaks at Interfaith press conference in Washington, D.C.

On Saturday, Dec. 18, Senators Hutchison and Cornyn on Saturday, joined by five Democrats and 36 other Republicans, voted to obstruct consideration of the DREAM Act, effectively killing the bill. The action dashed the hopes of tens of thousands of young people, many of whom have risked health and deportation through hunger strikes and by coming out of the shadows to lobby for the legislation.

The students vow to carry on!

To get a sense of the powerful movement the young people have put into motion, please watch the short video clip of María Antonietta Berriozábal speaking at a Washington, D.C., press conference of interfaith leaders and Dreamers from all over the country on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010. During lobby visits following the press conference and a prayer vigil, María delivered to Senator Hutchison’s office a Statement of Texas Catholic Sisters in support of the DREAM Act, signed by nearly 100 Sisters from 18 different congregations, as well as a “Line in the Sand” petition signed by hundreds of San Antonians actively supporting its passage.

Among our Dreamers in San Antonio, there was anger, sadness, and disappointment after the vote. But, they were quick to add, “This is Not Over!

Reflecting on the action in the Senate and the power of the Dreamers, María writes:

The DREAM Act legislation is “A Line In the Sand” because it was a national mobilization that reached far and wide on behalf of the most vulnerable in our society, the immigrant. There is no greater suffering and invisibility than that of someone who has no country. There has never been a bigger movement for immigrant rights than that made evident by passage of mean-spirited legislation like SB1070 in Arizona and in other states and, on its heels, the work for the DREAM Act.

I have lived through the movements for civil rights--the historic Black and Chicano movements, the women’s movement, and the anti-Vietnam war movement. I have participated for several decades in the movement for respect, rights, and a better future for my Latina sisters and their families. I have been part of the powerful environmental movement that has been issuing warnings about the consequences of our commissions and omissions towards our Mother Earth. Yesterday as the US Senate repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” it paid honor--at least in part--to those different because of their sexuality.

The movement for immigrant rights brings together all these issues.

What makes this new movement so unique is that the undocumented immigrant, while in the midst of our daily life--cleaning houses, washing dishes in the fanciest restaurants in suburbia, manicuring lawns, housekeeping in our hotels, taking care of our children and our elderly, building our houses, harvesting our food, doing the messy work of getting poultry and beef to our tables, and doing other jobs with which our country would not survive--is essentially living in darkness and in silence. The obvious problem for the undocumented immigrant is that s/he is not able to advocate for himself/herself.

The undocumented Dreamers are an exception because they risk everything by courageously coming out and speaking for themselves. The immigrant rights movement also includes countless young women and men who, while not undocumented, have been deeply moved by the plight of their fellow students all over the country. I have heard of high school students here in San Antonio, one by one, admitting to their peers for the first time that they are undocumented.

Silence is being broken.

All these things will have ramifications for our entire Latina/Latino communities at a time when we are also dealing with scarcity. Come January 2011 our Texas Legislature will have to deal with some terrible legislation, such as a bill that would have undocumented children, all the way from kinder to high school, unable to attend public schools. Can you imagine what that would do to San Antonio? Our Congress will be dealing with similar hateful legislation, as the Tea Party folks push their agenda on such things as the meaning of citizenship. Tragically, much of what is behind all this is plain racism that is hidden no longer--and it will continue.

The Dreamers have not been deterred. They have already started another phase of their work and will continue to organize.

We cannot be deterred either. I hope you continue supporting the young people who hope for a better world and let us continue keeping the issue of comprehensive immigration reform alive. . . no matter how long it takes.

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