While the DREAM Act was put on hold on Wednesday, advocates for illegal immigrants obtaining citizenship through an education or military service have set their sights on the year 2012, when it will likely be picked up by the House again. The DREAM Act “would provide qualified people up to the age of 29 with a path to citizenship if they attend college or join the military.” This would make about 2.1 million immigrants eligible, although once the bill has gone through the various stages of approval, a “far smaller number” would meet the requirements.
However, those that were the original “Dreamers” will probably be too old to receive the benefits since the law caps the age at 29. Yet that has not prevented or discouraged them from helping other young illegal immigrants who made the trip to America with their parents as children.
Advocates have come together from over 25 different states and all different nationalities to form a strong coalition group to speak for the passing of the DREAM Act. While they know that at this time, the chances of the law passing are slim to none, they are determined to make headway for the new electoral year of 2012. They’ve turned to the sympathy of Americans, “bringing with them a coalition of labor groups, the Conference of Catholic Bishops and even Defense Secretary Robert Gates” with The National Council of La Raza and other big groups spear-heading the campaign. These groups will also invest in Spanish-language media ads that will simultaneously promote the DREAM Act while reminding their audience of those lawmakers that did not vote for it.
Since the DREAM Act’s inception in 2001, advocates have pushed for it to pass. The early supporters, like Julieta Garibay, 29, will now be too old to receive the benefits, but hope to continue to pave the way for illegal immigrants that are younger than them. She stresses, “our allies will remember who voted, and how they voted, and will hold them accountable in 2012.” America’s Voice Deputy Director Lynn Tramonte points out that while the DREAM Act is very powerful and can be life-changing for younger kids, it’s those that have “stayed out of trouble and just want to get educated or join the military” that will be rewarded.
A big reason why it was opposed is the argument that it will hurt the unemployment rate even more at a time when it is already 9.8 percent. Some even find that the age cap of 29 is too high, claiming that they would be some “pretty old kids”, as Republican U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith said. He continued with the argument that legislation would be a “nightmare” with the paperwork and the inability to conduct thorough background checks for all the applicants.
Garibay’s story is a common one: she came to the U.S. with her mother as a child, has a college degree, but is unable to find a job in her field because of her citizenship status. Many of the same stories add substance to the faces behind the DREAM Act. Many are comparing the support of the DREAM Act to the support received by the gay rights movement; they are “coming out” about their illegal status. There were quite a few controversial stories this past year about students at prestigious colleges and universities “coming out” about their citizenship status. One such group of students marched from South Florida to Washington, “telling stories to those they met along the way.”
The United We DREAM is a Washington-based advocacy group that was founded with the help of Garibay under the supervision of The National Immigration Law Center. In just this past decade, the advocacy group has grown from a few people to a national network in 25 states. They hope that their reach will extend even more, with stories like Garibay’s and others giving the law a human face. However controversial the legislation will be in 2012, they seem to be determined to get it passed. As one supporter, Jong-Min, who asked for his last name to be anonymous for fear of his parents being deported, said, “We were the original Dreamers when the bill was first introduced in 2001. They talk about us as being old. What did people expect, that we would stop aging?”
The full story can be found here.