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"Report on 2006 Witt Internship: Idaho Community Action Network"

March/April 2007 issue of Poverty & Race

The DREAM Act (H.R. 1275) is bipartisan legislation pending in Congress to clear up immigration status issues and address federal barriers to education and work confronted by the U.S.-raised children of undocumented immigrants. Further information from the National Immigration Law Center, 202/216-0261 (DC), 213/639-3900 (LA), 510/663-8282 (Oakland).

Fairness in education is part of our American values. Unfortunately, for thousands of immigrant students who have come to this country for a better future, the road to higher education has been closed. For the past several years, the Idaho Community Action Network (ICAN) has been working at the national level to even out the playing field for immigrant students to continue their dreams of higher education.In January and February, 2006, ICAN launched a campaign to broaden our student base throughout the state. We held a state-wide conference on the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). Students came representing schools from North, East and Central Idaho. The purpose of this training was to educate youth on the issue and to get commitments to work on The DREAM Act and in-state tuition campaigns. (The Idaho Student Investment Act would allow students to pay in-state tuition, regardless of immigration status, if they have earned a high school diploma or GED equivalent and have lived in Idaho for at least 3 years before they earned the degree. Undocumented students also are required to say they have applied for a green card [legal permanent residence] or promise they will as soon as they can.)

Since launching the campaign, students have organized to pass student and faculty resolutions at universities across the state. In addition, college and university presidents have signed letters of support for our campaign. At the high school level, principals and superintendents have also signed letters of support. Youth have collected over 30 letters of support statewide.

In May, we helped organized a regional conference in Salem, Oregon in partnership with other youth organizations working on The DREAM Act. Our student base from all over Idaho participated in this conference. At the conference, we strategized and organized on how to move the issue forward.

As the summer went on, students continued doing public education and engaging the public in a debate about The DREAM Act and in-state tuition. In June, students in Boise organized a press conference with faculty from Boise State University to highlight the issue. Recently, ICAN youth conducted a presentation before the Idaho State Board of Education. In the upcoming legislative session, ICAN will continue to work with different educators and key leaders in the state to pass in-state tuition in Idaho.

The DREAM Act was reintroduced in Congress in late February 2007. ICAN will continue to work to pass this critical legislation. At the state level, after a year of grassroots organizing, the controversial in-state tuition bill received a public hearing. ICAN intern Fernando Mejia jam-packed the largest room in the Idaho state legislature with supporters of in-state tuition. Students, parents, educators and community members supported the bill. Not a single person testified against the measure. Regrettably, state legislators voted the bill down. ICAN will continue to work throughout the year to move in-state tuition in the 2008 legislature.

Fernando Mejia, Idaho Community Action Network’s Witt Intern during the Summer of 2006, made the following progress towards the goals stated in our proposal to PRRAC:
  • Youth Leadership Team-Building Goal: Develop/support youth leadership teams on campuses across the state, building organizing skills and developing campus/community strategy and local activities.
    • Between January and February, 80 key youth leaders were identified from the University of Idaho, Albertson College of Idaho, Lewis Clark State College, Boise State University and Idaho State University.
    • In February, we brought 30 youth leaders total from each of the colleges and universities together for a state meeting to build relationships, develop strategy through power analysis and strategy chart workshops, brainstorm projects and actions/activities, make a timeline for action, and make commitments to follow through.
    • After the meeting, we gave support—and continue giving support—to youth leadership teams in each area. We have had one-on-one strategy consultations with key leaders, provided research and materials assistance (fact sheets and talking points) for meetings with university administrators about the The DREAM Act, and have traveled the state to offer on-site training and project support.
    • Throughout this time, we have helped develop a shared sense of commitment and cohesion among key youth leaders on each campus. We held regular conference calls to share updates, check on progress, make decisions about shifts in strategy and tactics, and provide support.

  • Reframing the Public Debate on Immigration Goal: Using direct community outreach, the media (letters to the editor and op-eds), and serving as a resource to the media to reframe the public debate.
    • Direct community outreach: Students on each campus identified groups on campus and in the community, then set up and executed presentations on The DREAM Act, in-state tuition and comprehensive immigration reform. They held many meeting with university administrators to pass student government and faculty senate resolutions in support of The DREAM Act. Students have passed resolutions with their student government in four of the state’s universities, and also have gotten the support from President Bob Kustra of Boise State U, President Arthur C. Valias of Idaho State U. and Tim White of the Univ. of Idaho.
    • Direct media strategy: Youth leaders have engaged in pro-active media work, submitted 40 letters to the editor and three op-ed pieces to campus and community newspapers to reframe the debate on immigrants.

  • Mobilizing Support and Mounting Pressure to Support Educational Opportunity for All: Develop strategy, then implement a range of tactics (such as decision-maker meetings, report releases, public actions and street theater) to build support and pressure key decision-makers and those who influence them to support educational opportunity for all Idahoans.
    • In February, 2006, The DREAM in Action team engaged in a comprehensive power analysis and developed a list of primary targets (those who have decision-making power) and secondary targets (those who have influence over the decision-makers); they used this analysis to develop a menu of tactics to mobilize support and build pressure on both primary and secondary targets.
    • The DREAM in Action team held meetings, gave presentations and implemented tactics to secure public commitments of support from secondary targets for The DREAM Act and and an Idaho in-state tuition bill. Over the summer, students got 30 letters of support from high school principals and superintendents. They also secured the support of the presidents of the state’s major universities.

For further information, contact Leo Morales (, 208/385-9146, x109,

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