Members of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), a social justice organization which has been on the front lines in the fight for passage of the DREAM Act and immigration reform, rang the closing bell of the NASDAQ, or the American Stock Exchange, on June 25 as part of the Coalition’s 25th anniversary celebration. The event was shared by thousands as it was displayed on the giant NASDAQ Tower in Times Square. 1199SEIU is among the NYIC’s major organizational supporters and a number of 1199ers attended the event.
The NYIC had much to celebrate. Within days of its anniversary, President Obama announced the Deferred Action Program, which allows young, undocumented people who meet certain criteria to remain in the United States and apply for work. Time featured several NYIC supporters and DREAM Act activists in its cover story by Jose Antonio Vargas , a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and founder of the Define American Project. The story “We Are Americans” is about their work for reform, what it means to be American and their refusal to any longer hide their status and their identities.
Vargas revealed his identity as an undocumented immigrant in an essay for The New York Times magazine. After the NASDAQ event, Vargas and other DREAMers spoke at NYIC’s Manhattan headquarters and signed copies of Time Magazine.
“If I had my way, the Time cover would have been 2 million people, but they said they only needed 35,” Vargas joked. “The biggest part of Define American was just turning the conversation around. The fact that we are all embracing the fact that we are American – which does not mean we’re not proud of being Mexican or Kenyan or whatever we are by birth – has changed the conversation. We are no longer playing on the defensive.”
Vargas said that the evening gave was an opportunity to honor those DREAMers who continue to work fearlessly for change. “This is the kind of change that gives us hope,” he said. “And it really is the most important kind of human struggle we can engage in.”