By Karol Brown
Wednesday night, I cheered when I heard that the U.S. House of Representatives approved the DREAM Act by a vote of 216 to 198. Yesterday, the Senate postponed their efforts to proceed with their version of the DREAM Act by a vote of 59 to 40. Several news outlets have misinterpreted this Senate vote as the death of the DREAM Act. But the Senate may still vote next week to take up the House version of the DREAM Act, and keep the DREAM alive for so many young people across our country. AILA members need to act now to call or write your Senators and urge them to vote yes on the DREAM Act.
Many of us, as AILA members, have seen the faces and heard the compelling stories of those whose lives would dramatically change if the DREAM Act is passed. My firm represents Alonso Chehade, a DREAM Act candidate who has been ordered deported to Peru. He has lived in the U.S. since he was 14 years old, graduated from high school in Washington State, and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in Business Administration. He has no family in Peru, and wants only to contribute to this country where he has grown up. Alonso was able to build a coalition of people who worked tirelessly to delay his deportation indefinitely. He has become an activist, advocating for other young people in similar circumstances and for the passage of the DREAM Act.
AILA members have attended rallies, lit candles at vigils, and watched the mock graduation ceremonies held at cities and towns across America. We have talked to our friends and families and community members about the need for immigration reform, such that 70% of the American public supports the DREAM Act. We have sent letters, written emails, and made phone calls to our Congress members and Senators urging them to pass this bill. All of our efforts have resulted in the passage of the DREAM Act in the House, and contributed to a building momentum for the passage of this bill in the Senate.
We must continue to do all of that, and more, to ensure that this bill becomes the law of the land. If you have already sent an email to your Senator, send another email and convince five of your friends to send one as well urging them to vote “yes” when DREAM comes up for a vote. If you have already called your Senator’s office, call again and keep calling until the vote is held. Post a story about the DREAM Act or AILA’s call to action on Facebook, so your social network can participate in your efforts. Send a message to your Representative to thank them, or spank them, for their vote on the DREAM Act.
We also need to counter the ignorance and misinformation spread by restrictionists about this bill. The DREAM Act does not provide a blanket amnesty, or guarantee without restriction that all young people here illegally have the right to stay in this country. Rather, it provides certain, well-chosen individuals a way to earn the privilege of remaining in the United States. People under 30 years old who came to the U.S. before age 16, who have good moral character, and who graduate with a U.S. high school diploma or GED must first complete two years of college or serve two years in the U.S. military. Only when those requirements are met would these high-performing young people be granted permanent residency status. The result is a win-win for the U.S. and these young people.
This legislation is the right thing to do. Many AILA members represent DREAM Act candidates and know first-hand their heartbreaking stories. These hardworking individuals should not be punished for circumstances beyond their control. Our government should not impose a life sentence on these young people for the actions of their parents.
Our current, broken immigration system provides no path for undocumented children to ever gain legal status, no matter how great their potential. Our immigration laws must be changed to create a path to citizenship for this targeted group of young people.
It is a critical time for AILA members to fight for this talented group of people who could benefit from the DREAM Act. We need to call and write and email our Senators to urge them to approve the DREAM Act. We need to get our family, friends, co-workers, community leaders to urge passage as well. We must do everything in our power to have the Senate enact this legislation.
The DREAM Act would benefit the most innocent victims of our broken immigration system while furthering our nation’s interests. Let’s keep the DREAM alive!