Young people can change the world; we in the United States and Mexico are reminded of this as two groups forge a brighter future for themselves and their nations. Here are 10 lessons we can learn from the so-called “Dreamers” in the United States and from Mexico’s YoSoy132 student movement.
Lesson 1: Don’t let powerful people push you around. Frustrated by a lack of progress on immigration reform, the Dreamers _ young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children by their parents _ stopped wondering about their fate and started organizing themselves in early 2010, holding marches and demonstrations across the country.
They drew attention to the fact that President Obama was deporting immigrants at a faster rate than any other president while they_ most of them students who grew up here _ remained in limbo, living under the specter of deportation. Legislation known as the “Dream Act” would have offered a path to citizenship to those who attended college or joined the military, but it failed in recent years to gain traction in Congress. So the Dreamers increased their efforts, gaining the support of immigrant activists across the nation.
And the president eventually caved: This month Obama announced that deportations for some undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 would be halted (the decision could affect up to 1.4 million students, according to the Pew Hispanic Center). This brings me to Lesson 2: Politicians respond to pressure. Obama needs Hispanic votes, but in order to secure them he had to give something in return. And he did.
Lesson 3: The traditional media is not the only way to broadcast your message. To reach a wider audience, try Facebook and Twitter. When Pena Nieto was heckled by a group of student protesters during a May campaign stop at Mexico City’s Iberoamericana University, he fled. His party alleged that the demonstrators were not students but agitators sent by a rival party. Afterward 131 protesters displayed their student IDs on YouTube videos. Since then, YoSoy132, or “I am number 132,” has collected more than 78,000 followers on Twitter and has helped to organize mass protests in major Mexican cities.
By using social media, the students of the YoSoy132 movement in Mexico have drawn attention to the stand they’ve taken on Enrique Pena Nieto, the leading candidate in Mexico’s presidential race _ including accusations that he spent millions of public dollars on publicity and media airtime to promote his image when he was governor of the state of Mexico (Pena Nieto and his party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, have denied this).
Lesson 4: Sometimes you have to expose your nation’s dirty laundry. By pointing out that in Mexico, a very select group has control of most of the power, money and information, YoSoy132 has become a force to contend with. And in a country now defined by drug violence and corruption, the sight of young people taking a stand has inspired many Mexicans who were previously afraid to speak out.
Lesson 5: Don’t wait for things to change. Many of YoSoy132’s members could have chosen to spend the summer vacation at the beach; instead, they’re taking to the streets and social networks. Unlike the previous generation, who took a wait-and-see approach, today’s Mexican youth are impatient when their hopes and dreams at stake. These young men and women grew up with computers, cell phones and the Internet, and they know that a country’s future can be altered with the click of a mouse, or by uploading an image or some new content.
Lesson 7: Challenge those in power _ this is how change begins. The Dreamers and members of YoSoy132, like great journalists, openly question authority. They condemn wrongdoing and they understand the importance of quickly spreading information. And they won’t accept gifts or money or flimsy promises. The Dreamers and YoSoy132 know that if they’re going to be heard by those at the top, they have to create unity among ordinary people. They didn’t wait for anyone to say it was acceptable to speak out, nor did they ask for help. Instead, they organized themselves, and took to the streets to convince people to join their cause. They took Lesson 8 to heart: Things change from the bottom up.
Lesson 9: History is made daily. The Dreamers have achieved the most important shift in American immigration policy since President Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to undocumented immigrants in 1986. And Mexico has not seen such an influential student movement since the historic demonstrations of 1968. Today, by promoting equality for all, regardless of documentation, and by fighting the ruling class, the youth are on the right side of history. The greatest mistake we could make is to ignore them.
And that is Lesson 10: If we fail to hear the voices of the young, our future could be lost.
By Jorge Ramos Avalos
(June 25, 2012)