Dreams Across America has hit the rails! (Sorry Lou Dobbs, it's the train rails and we're headed to DC. ) At 2:30PM today, 46 of us left LA's Union Station after a send off by Cardinal Mahony, LA's most popular morning radio show host "El Cucuy," about 100 onlookers and a White House-sized press gaggle. The most stirring speakers, however, were the "Dreamers" themselves, the folks who took time off from work and family to travel for a week from LA to DC to show the nation the real faces of the broken immigration laws.
Cathy Gurney of Chico, California, a wife, mother and owner with her husband of a landscape company that employs sixty people, was the emcee of the press conference today. She spoke clearly and plainly about the need for reform of the ridiculous system we call the immigration statutes. As you will see from her video, Cathy is part of the backbone of America -- the small businesses that generate most of the employment in our country. Cathy wants to hire people at high wages; she just can't find enough employees. One thing is for sure: folks who work for Cathy are not taking away anyone's job. She has more demand than there is supply.
This gets to the heart of the matter. When there are strong economic imbalances, such as we now have with the less than perfect trade agreements that are in place with Mexico and other countries, we export poverty while magnetically pulling workers north. So rather than address what is an essential flaw in policy and law, our government dithers while families and businesses like Cathy's suffer.
The LA Times reported today that some 63% of the American people favor immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the twelve million or so undocumented folks who currently live here, some for decades. Only about 45% of the US Senate was willing to vote to consider a hodgepodge of a bill that would have begun to address the issues of immigration reform. Can someone explain to me why the Senate has less sense than the people it supposedly leads? Are those senators so afraid of a few loud voices in a tiny minority that they won't even march behind an overwhelming majority of Americans?
We're here to enter into a real national discussion, online and in person, and learn together the effects of government action and inaction on normal, every day people. Maybe some of our elected officials will look in and start to see that leadership is a terrible thing to waste. For the next five days, we'll feature a Dreamer, one of our number from LA or Boston or Chicago whose story we had a chance to tell in three minutes or so of video, just like Cathy's. Some of them are quite dramatic; all of them are very accessible and human, the antidote to 650 pages of dry legislation that animates only when it touches the people whose lives those simple black squiggles will affect.
We'll also produce two pieces of video each day from the train. You'll meet our traveling companions, each of whose biography is on our site. Some are first generation immigrants; many, like me, are second or third.
Now about AMTRAK: we left Union Station at 2:30. At 5:30PM, we're sitting on a siding in Ontario. For those of you not from California, that means we've gone about fifty miles in about three hours. Passenger trains yield to freight trains, of which there are many. And the conductor announced that we have to sit a bit longer because someone stole the signal wire from the tracks for the next sixteen miles. I'm not really sure why we have to sit for that reason. It seems to me we'd either go or not go if there's no signal wire, but maybe there's some way to stop traffic. I sure hope so. It'd be deeply unpleasant to miss a signal just past Ontario and find ourselves seriously impacted by America's freight .
The accommodations are rather pleasant (but ask me again in twelve hours). The seats are pretty spacious, sort of like first class on United before bankruptcy. And yes, I sprung for a little sleeper room so that I can do my work together with Shaun, Arthur and Nick, who are producing our twice-daily train videos. They have ingeniously set up an on board editing bay where they can take their footage, cut it and then when (if) we get to Tucson tonight, they'll hand the tape to someone who will upload for online viewing in the morning. We call it the Train Channel; it's on our front page at Dreams Across America.
Take a few minutes and sign up to go with us. No, you don't have to sit on the siding in Ontario; you can signup here to get on board virtually. And thanks to Arianna, who really helped kick off this whole effort with her own immigration story two weeks ago, we'll be here at HufPost telling you of our journey.