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Podcast: DREAM Act Campaign Spawns New Leaders in the Immigrant Rights Movement

Jose Antonio Vargas

Jose Antonio Vargas speaking at Fi2W’s forum on DREAM Activists and the immigrant rights movement at The New School. (Photo: Jocelyn Gonzales)

The immigrant rights movement is changing.  Just a few years ago its main focus was convincing Congress to pass a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration system.  That never happened, and today the emphasis has shifted to the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide a path to legal status for millions of young, undocumented immigrants.  Many of them were brought to the US as young children, and only learned they were in the country illegally when they tried to apply for a drivers license or a college loan.  The movement’s new leadership is drawn from their ranks.  In this podcast, you’ll hear from three of these young activists:

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who decided to reveal his illegal status in the New York Times Magazine.  He also created an advocacy group called Define American.

Tania Mattos, a leader of the New York State Youth Leadership Council, a group that is pushing New York to pass a state version of the DREAM Act.   A year and a half ago she decided to publicly announce that she is an undocumented immigrant.

Juan Escalante, the communications director for, who spoke to us by phone from Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he’s in his 4th year of study.

Vargas and Mattos spoke at the Feet in Two Worlds forum at the New School about DREAM Activists and the evolving immigrants rights movement.


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Feet in Two Worlds is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with additional support from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation the Sirus Fund and WNYC, New York Public Radio. This program was produced in association with the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and CUNY-TV.

AboutFeet in Two Worlds
Feet in Two Worlds brings the work of immigrant and ethnic media journalists from communities across the U.S. to public radio and the web. Since 2005, this award-winning project has expanded the diversity of voices and stories on public radio by presenting the work of journalists representing a broad spectrum of immigrant communities including Arab, Bosnian, Brazilian, Chinese, Haitian, Indian, Irish, Latin American, Pakistani, Polish, and Russian immigrants. Feet in Two Worlds reporters appear on nationally-distributed public radio programs including PRI’s The World, Studio 360, and The Takeaway, American Public Media’s Marketplace and NPR’s Latino USA, as well as on public radio stations WNYC, New York Public Radio, and WDET in Detroit.