Arkansas held first DREAM Act State Summit

LITTLE ROCK, AR - On Monday, January 16, 2012, concerned Arkansans gathered at the state's capitol to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a statewide summit on the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act.

Discussion themes addressed at the Summit an analysis of the DREAM movement in Arkansas, prospects for the introduction of state DREAM Act in 2013, and opportunities for regional and state awareness-building.

A full agenda entailed strategic planning sessions, regional action plan development for 2012 and 2013, visibility events in Little Rock tied to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, and Hispanics and Latino voter engagement training.

Mireya Reith, Executive Director, Arkansas United Community Coalition and event organizer greeted the group by saying, “ “Thank you for join us for Arkansas’ first DREAM Act State Summit and choosing to celebrate your Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day holiday in demonstration of your commitment to higher education for all Arkansas students!”

The first speaker, Maria Elena de Avila, Career Coach Program Manager for Arkansas Works, Arkansas Department of Career Education gave an overall presentation on the state programs available to Arkansans.

Arkansas’ DREAM Act proponents shared the history and accomplishments of the DREAM Act and context analysis during their presentation titled, “Where Have We Been?”. Featured speakers were Rosa Velazquez, National Coordinating Committee Representative, United We DREAM, Mid-South Region and Affiliate Lead Coordinator, Arkansas Coalition for DREAM; Zessna Garcia, DREAM Act student activist; Rafael Arciga Garcia; Patty Barker, Political Director, Arkansa Public Policy Panel; Dr. G. David Gearhart, Chancellor, University of Arkansas; Mireya Reith, Executive Director, Arkansas United Community Coalition, and Reverend Stephen Copley, Arkansas Interfaith Alliance.

Before lunch, Summit attendees participated in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Marade Rally sponsored by the Little Rock Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol Building. Manuel Mendez, a student activist spoke in favor of the DREAM Act.

At lunch, attendees participated on a State leaders panel discussion titled “Where Are We Going?” Panelist included State Senator Joyce Elliott, State Representative Greg Leding, Dr. Joel Anderson, Chancellor, University of Arkansas Little Rock and Reverend Stephen Copley, Arkansas Interfaith Alliance. The Panelist braze the crowd with statements of the importance to elevate all Arkansas to college education status.

The Arkansas DREAM Act State Summit Organizing Partners included, Arkansas Coalition for the DREAM (AC4D), Arkansas United Community Coalition (AUCC), Arkansas Public Policy Panel (APPP), Arkansas Interfaith Alliance, Arkansas Natural DREAMers, the Office of the Chancellor, University of Arkansas and Just Communities of Arkansas.
At least 65,000 undocumented immigrant youth graduate from high schools every year, and many of them struggle to attend institutes of higher education and volunteer to the military.

The DREAM Act will grant youth who traveled to the United States before the age of 16 a path to citizenship contingent on continuous presence in the country, good behavior, and the attainment of at least a two-year university degree or a two-year commitment to the armed forces.

Most of the students have lived in the United States from a young age and consider themselves Americans. They are attending "classes" at what organizers have dubbed the "Dream University," meeting with legislators, and, in a notable shift from previous years, giving out their full names and personal histories.

The DREAM Act is the critical first increment in a longer process of immigration reform. According to recent surveys by First Focus, 70% of the American public supports the DREAM Act.
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