Apologies to DREAM Act advocates everywhere …

For the last six weeks of change.org’s Ideas for Change competition, I’ve been consistently impressed by the advocates for Pass the DREAM Act – Support Higher Education for All Students.

The network of activists promoting the idea are giving the rest of us lessons in how to do it effectively.*  And they and their supporters seem to really get the strategic importance of a potential partnership with change.org, MySpace, and a raft of excellent non-profits.

With the complex political situation around the DREAM Act, social network activism could be a wild card that helps tip the balance and gets Congress to prioritize the DREAM Act — and puts them over 60 votes in the Senate.  Of all of the ideas in the competition, it seems to me it’s got one of the best chances of having an impact.  I voted for it (please consider doing the same) and have been trying to help promote it as well as others.

So when I was talking when I was talking with David Herbert of the National Journal on Monday, as well as discussing my idea, I brought the DREAM Act as an example.  It worked very effectively from the promotional side (David’s article Move over, change.gov discussed and linked to their idea as well as mine) but I certainly wish I had said things differently:

Web strategist Jon Pincus, whose idea “Get FISA Right, repeal the PATRIOT Act, and restore our civil liberties” is currently ranked No. 2, argued that combining grassroots politics with the power of a social networking site like MySpace could prove a potent combination, even for issues that have already been debated ad nauseam.

The online vote could also help push legislation with some congressional support — like the DREAM Act, which would give undocumented high school graduates a path to citizenship — over the finish line. The only obstacle to the DREAM Act, Pincus said, is that it lacks vocal advocates.

“Who’s going to prioritize undocumented minors?” he said. “Nobody.”


In fact, there are huge obstacles to the passage of the DREAM Act — and plenty of vocal advocates and people who prioritize it, too, starting with the activists who I’ve been so impressed with.  Without any context, what I said is incredibly disrespectful to them, denying their voice and agency, and for that I apologize very deeply.  Apologies as well to all the non-profit organizations, politicians, and Congressional staffers who have worked on its behalf.

The point I was trying (and failing) to make was that DREAM Act advocates is badly marginalized in traditional activism approaches:

  • Strategically, it is very rare that any organization (other than a youth- or family-focused one) will prioritize issues where the burden falls primarily on minors.
  • Most politicians and executive directors of non-profits are 30 or over — sometimes substantially so.
  • In terms of online activism, the dominant email- and blog-centric approaches marginalize Millennials, who as a group spend much more of their time on social network sites.
  • On top of that, immigrant rights advocates in general are the target of racist and nativist sentiments; and a lot of DREAM activists are undocumented and thus face many additional challenges.

So opportunities like Ideas for America are particularly valuable.

Unfortunately, that’s not what I said.

Once again, my apologies.


* For example the detailed instructions in How to vote for the DREAM Act on DreamActivist.