Prerna Lal: An Impactful Leadership in the DREAM Act Movement

Prerna Lal: An Undocumented Activist's Journey

In a world often defined by borders, legal statuses, and societal expectations, Prerna Lal emerges as a beacon of resilience and advocacy. Born on December 14, 1984, in Lautoka, Fiji, Prerna Lal’s life story weaves a tapestry of challenges, triumphs, and a relentless pursuit of justice.

From the picturesque landscapes of the Fiji Islands to the bustling streets of the San Francisco Bay Area, Lal’s journey is nothing short of extraordinary.

Early Life and Education of Prerna Lal: A Testimony of Tenacity

The narrative begins in Fiji, where Lal attended Nehru Memorial Primary School and later St Joseph’s Secondary School. The family’s decision to emigrate to the United States following Fiji’s political upheaval in 2000 marked the commencement of an arduous immigration journey.

The process of obtaining lawful permanent resident status through Lal’s US citizen grandmother proved prolonged, pushing Lal into undocumented status in the U.S.

Undeterred, Lal faced the challenges head-on, attending Hayward High School in California. As an undocumented student, federal financial aid remained elusive, prompting Lal to work tirelessly in the family cleaning business to attend Chabot College.

Despite the limitations imposed by their immigration status, Lal earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from California State University, East Bay, followed by a Masters in International Relations from San Francisco State University.

The pursuit of education did not end there. In 2010, Lal matriculated at The George Washington University Law School, breaking barriers as the first undocumented graduate from the institution in 2013.

Pioneering the DREAM Act Movement: A Catalyst for Change

Prerna Lal’s indomitable spirit found a platform in the DREAM Act movement in 2008 and 2009. As a founder and Communications Director of DreamActivist, Lal played a pivotal role in utilizing social media to mobilize undocumented youth against deportations.

Their groundbreaking approach combined storytelling, legal advocacy, lobbying, and social media to build a nationwide network that successfully halted numerous deportations.

Despite the Senate’s failure to pass the DREAM Act in 2010, Lal’s unwavering commitment led to the establishment of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012 under President Obama. This marked a turning point in immigration policies and reinforced the power of grassroots activism.

Breaking Legal Barriers: Lal’s Journey through Law School and Advocacy

Undeterred by their undocumented status, Lal pursued legal education at George Washington University Law School. Merit and need-based scholarships, along with support from immigration advocacy organizations, facilitated Lal’s graduation in 2013.

The Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Accomplishment Award in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties recognized Lal’s groundbreaking work in immigration and LGBT advocacy.

Prerna Lal’s impact extended beyond legal circles. South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) honored them with a Changemaker Award in 2011, acknowledging their leadership in the undocumented youth movement. Fusion listed Lal among the “Top 20 Immigration Experts to Follow on Twitter” in 2013, solidifying their influence in the digital space.

Undocuqueer Leadership and Beyond: Lal’s Continued Advocacy

Prerna Lal’s advocacy was not confined to immigration; they emerged as a pivotal undocuqueer leader. Serving as a board director of Immigration Equality during a landmark period in U.S. LGBT history, Lal contributed to policy, advocacy, and legal services for LGBT immigrants.

In 2014, Lal joined Advancing Justice | AAJC as a staff attorney, focusing on immigration enforcement matters. Successful campaigns for parole for Filipino war veterans’ family members and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nepal showcased Lal’s commitment to justice.

Lal Legal APLC: A New Chapter in Advocacy

Despite facing removal proceedings in 2011, Prerna Lal’s fight against deportation showcased the intersectionality of their advocacy. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Lal’s favor, highlighting the significance of their place in the immigration narrative.

In 2018, Prerna Lal achieved a milestone by becoming a U.S. citizen, marking the culmination of a journey that began in Fiji. Lal’s marriage to their partner, Lindsay Schubiner, symbolized the triumph of love and equality, coinciding with the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.

Also Read: Jagdish Bhagwati: Architect of Global Prosperity and Trade Evolution

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