June 27, 2012

DREAMing of a stronger climate movement

It may not be obvious at first blush, but the immigration and environmental movements share a lot in common. Both are people-powered movements against the interests of a powerful and privileged few. Both struggle against issues that negatively affect the daily lives of everyday people. Both find that their greatest strength lies in organizing against the powers that be. Both movements are fighting uphill battles against ignorance and misinformation.

Because they have so much in common, there’s a lot that they can learn from one another. In light of recent news on both administrative relief for DREAMers, as well as the Supreme Court’s ruling on SB 1070, the time is right to reflect on the immigrant rights movement’s years of action, and what young climate activists can learn and apply in their own work.

Some of the most powerful images from the immigration movement are of individual activists engaging in sustained occupation of spaces, even to the point of civil disobedience: DREAMers taking over offices, families blocking the hallways of statehouses, and communities holding vigils for justice and reform. Their presence directly challenges the ideas of undocumented immigrants being “in the shadows” and out of the public eye. It is because of those courageous enough to “come out” and proudly take up space and attention for the rights of millions in this country that the national conversation begins to change.

Climate activists have also seen the impact of taking actions to apply external pressure and work outside the system to reach their goals. Thanks to the thousands who banned together outside the White House and all those who faced arrest to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, their work directly altered the administration’s perceived intention to approve the disastrous plan. When we take bold action that inspires others and pushes against the power of entrenched interests, we see meaningful changes.

There is so much to learn from other movements, both historical and current – our work is stronger and our vision for the future is made real when we recognize the intersections of all the things we fight for. DREAMers and immigrant justice activists have provided a model on how to channel our passions and take action for the things we as young people care about most.

Cross-posted from Reform Immigration FOR America