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High-Level Meetings

More than 800 demonstrators poured out of 16 buses, flooding the Washington neighborhood of top White House political strategist Karl Rove on a quiet Sunday late last month.

Chanting, "Karl, come on out! See what the DREAM Act is all about," the demonstrators held signs and milled around on his front lawn on March 28. Police arrived and a reportedly testy Mr. Rove agreed to meet in his garage with two leaders of National People’s Action, a Chicago-based group that coordinates grassroots coalitions.

The terse exchange didn’t amount to much, and the demonstrators left after it, said Melissa Townsend, NPA’S national education organizer. The group is pushing for a vote in Congress on the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (or DREAM) Act, which would enable undocumented immigrants to gain legal U.S. residency and qualify for in-state tuition. But Mr. Rove wasn’t too happy about the group’s tactics.

"We appreciate their concerns, but we would urge them to be more respectful of people’s homes and families," Maria Tamburri, a White House spokeswoman, said last week.

NPA had better luck at the Department of Education the next day. In past years, the group has sent 2,000 valentines (plus candy) to Secretary of Education Rod Paige and used other tactics in search of a meeting.

But this year, a simple request prompted a sit-down session with Laurie Rich, the department’s assistant secretary for intergovernmental and interagency affairs, Ms. Townsend said. Ms. Rich agreed to visit some cities where NPA is active to talk about the No Child Left Behind Act, school construction and special education, Ms. Townsend said.

Ms. Townsend said she was pleased with the meeting.

"It’s a real change in attitude," she said. "Maybe we were just lucky to have found someone who we could convince. But it is an election year."

—Michelle R. Davis

Vol. 23, Issue 30, Page 22

Published in Print: April 7, 2004, as Federal File

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