Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Chance to Dream

Here is the latest news on this proposed legislation called THE DREAM Act from immigration rights leaders in Texas: "The vote happened this afternoon; however, sadly we DID NOT GET the 60 votes we needed - Senator Hutchison spoke eloquently in favor but Senator Cornyn voted against. The final tally was 54 in favor of DREAM and 44 against the motion to bring it to discussion in the Senate floor. I am told that Senator Durbin (DREAM Act Author) is negotiating to get
the other six and we will see results after lunch, but this is all we know.

Although I've not seen the latest version of this legislation, my understanding is that it applies to undocumented immigrant youth who entered the country at age 15 or younger, have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years and who are of good moral standing, that is, no police record. After graduating from high school, these youth would receive conditional legal status for six years. During this time frame, this person would have to spend at least two years enrolled in a four-year or community college. Another option is serving in a branch of the U.S. military also for two years. Upon meeting all these requirements, this would put these young people in a situation where they could successfully apply to become legal permanent residents.

This has been a long, hard-fought battle and it's very unsure right now. I applaud the New York Times editorial board for supporting this.

-Dra. Valenzuela

October 24, 2007
A Chance to Dream

The Senate has a chance today to pluck a small gem from the ashes of the immigration debate. A critical procedural vote is scheduled on the Dream Act, a bill to open opportunities for college and military service to the children of undocumented immigrants.

Roughly 65,000 children graduate each year from high school into a constrained future because they cannot work legally or qualify for most college aid. These are the overlooked bystanders to the ferocious bickering over immigration. They did not ask to be brought here, have worked hard in school and could, given the chance, hone their talents and become members of the homegrown, high-skilled American work force.

The bill is one of the least controversial immigration proposals that have been offered in the last five years. But that doesn’t mean much. Like everything else not directly involving border barricades and punishment, it has been branded as “amnesty,” and has languished.

But this bill is different, starting with its broad, bipartisan support, from its original sponsor, the Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, to its current champion, Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois. Repeated defeats have forced Mr. Durbin to pare away at the bill’s ambitions. It focuses now on a narrow sliver of a worthy group: children who entered the country before age 16, lived here continuously for at least five years and can show good moral character and a high school diploma. They would receive conditional legal status for six years, during which they could work, go to college and serve in the military. If they completed at least two years of college or military service, they would be eligible for legalization.

These young people — their numbers are estimated at anywhere from a million to fewer than 100,000 — are in many ways fully American, but their immigration status puts a lock on their potential right after high school. They face the prospect of living in the shadows as their parents do, fearing deportation to countries they do not know, yearning to educate themselves in a country that ignores their aspirations.

The Dream Act rejects that unacceptable waste of young talent. The opportunity is there, provided the votes are there in the Senate.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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