On the opposite end of the National Mall where Martin Luther King once stood and gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, I sat in the Senate Gallery with modern-day DREAMers on a cold day in December and watched as their hopes fell apart, rent asunder by a procedural vote intended to stop unlimited debate on the DREAM Act. The cloture vote on the DREAM Act on December 18, 2010 fell short by 5 votes and the bill was stopped dead in its tracks.
Unfortunately for the DREAMers, their aspirations may be the same as those expressed by Martin Luther King not too long ago but the circumstances couldn’t be more different. The distance between the two movements might as well be as great as the chasm that separates one side of the Grand Canyon from the other, not the safely walkable distance between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol.
The Martin Luther King speech marked the final evolution of a civil rights struggle that began long ago, the end to injustices that the bloody civil war of a century earlier tried to correct but could not wholly deal with.
And maybe that’s what we need to remember today…that the civil rights struggle of the sixties represented not the struggle of one decade alone, the sixties (or more accurately, the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties) but the culmination of a struggle that had been slowly and painfully evolving over many decades previous.
And since any kind of comprehensive immigration reform (or a subset of reform, such as the DREAM Act) has failed to pass — despite all of the struggles of the past decade — we HAVE to be reminded of the fact that these types of struggles sometimes take longer than anticipated to succeed. I say this knowing that there are lives hanging in the balance, and that sooner rather than later would also (obviously) be preferable…but I also say this believing that ultimately, the movement will succeed…it’s only a matter of time.