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Immigrant Youth Movement Builds Momentum in Maryland

Obama's deportation "deferred action" program and Maryland's "Dream Act" are fueling the JSA movement.

It was a watershed week for Maryland's “Dreamers”—a week that brought the first step toward temporary reprieve for more than 1,000 illegal immigrants brought to the country as children, and another step for an immigrant youth movement that is gaining steam as voters stare down a November referendum on in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Casa de Maryland, the state’s largest immigrant advocacy group, led a push to get more than 1,000 applicants to Langley Park and Baltimore on Wednesday and Thursday for the onset of President Obama's program to give certain illegal immigrants a two-year shield against being deported.

Announced in June, Obama’s “deferred action” program applies to illegal immigrants who:

  • came to the United States when they were younger than 16,
  • have lived in the U.S. for at least five years,
  • are 30 years old or younger, and
  • have never been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, multiple misdemeanor offenses or pose a threat to national security.

They must also meet one of these conditions:

  • be enrolled in school,
  • have graduated from high school (or earned a GED), or
  • were honorably discharged from the U.S. military.

Organizers of the Langley Park and Baltimore clinics estimate some 10,000 people in Montgomery County are eligible. Nationally, the count approaches 2 million, reported USA Today.

Advocates and applicants celebrated the long-awaited measure this week across the country—even though applicants’ long-term status remains unclear because the policy could be revoked by a new president or by an act of Congress, reported the Huffington Post.

That celebration was nonetheless effusive Friday night at a five-hour concert in downtown Silver Spring. The concert marked a crystallizing moment for the JSA Movement, which has rallied thousands of immigrant youths hoping to tilt November's Dream Act referendum in their favor.

JSA sprung to life after , whom federal agents seized with his parents in March and then .

The movement quickly turned its focus to Maryland’s version of the Dream Act, which would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition if they graduated from a state high school and their families pay state taxes, among other requirements.

Gov. Martin O’Malley ratified the Dream Act in May. Opponents promptly mounted a petition drive that has .

The movement, which now goes by the moniker “Justice for Students in America,” is determined to win the referendum with its grassroots, youth-driven campaign. JSA has amassed more than 2,000 supporters on Facebook and nearly 10,000 followers on Twitter.

“JSA has pretty much not only inspired the local community, politicians, city and county council members and state’s attorneys, we have also infiltrated the schools and reached out to the rising voters that are going to be voting in the upcoming election, getting them involved,” said Francisco Cartagena, one of JSA’s founding members.

With the start of school approaching, JSA plans to ratchet up its efforts to draw even more young immigrants into the political fold.

“What we plan on doing is branching out to high schools and community colleges and continue the voter registrations and get them to understand what these politicians are saying, and essentially to hold them accountable once they are elected,” said Cartagena.

Help Save Maryland.org August 22, 2012 at 03:16 AM
What? Undocumented is the proper term? Better check that with Justice Sotomayer. The proper term is illegal alien. What did your buddies lose their documents on the way across the Mexican border. Lol. We have numerous ethnic groups in the US but just one culture. And we still have unions but that is fading fast. Did u read how much union leaders make. Talk about riping off workers. Christ I'm in the wrong business!
J. Medina August 22, 2012 at 03:42 AM
LLS.......too funny. And yeah I know how much they make, its well deserved too. Union leaders do the work that politicians should be doing. Standing up and fighting for working families. In fact, where do you think OSHA, overtime pay, Child Labor Laws, NLRB and a whole host of benefits that we now enjoy came from. Unions !!!! Your just another brain wached victim of the right wing GOP. Its ok. I understand. Lol.
J. Medina August 22, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Listen there are over 50 million Latinos in the US so obviously they are not goin anywhere. So just learn from them, about them and keep an open mind and trust me you may like the flavor.
Bill Hussein O'Stalin September 14, 2012 at 11:30 AM
The ballot question is poorly worded and ignores the tax implications by voting yes. Someone will pay but the taxpayers are told by the freeloaders "Oh, wont' worry, it won't be that bad. We will be productive and contribute." That won't happen.
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