Keeping the DREAM alive
The proudest claim anyone can make is that they are a citizen of this great country. Citizenship commands duties and responsibilities freely assumed by those who love and cherish the United States. Citizenship inspires and enables us to make our own unique contribution and is at the core of the American dream.
The original DREAM Act is a bipartisan plan that ensures undocumented children will not be relegated to underclass status. It allows law-abiding, hard-working young people to continue contributing to their adopted homeland and earn citizenship. The DREAM Act permits children who violated no law when they were brought to the U.S. to attain their full potential and enhance American society.
Democrats worked with Republicans to incorporate their ideas and made 11 significant changes to the bill. In fact, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah was one of the lawmakers who introduced the bill. It took nine years to get a vote on the floors of the House and Senate and though that is a long time, we did not give up. And we will not give up now.
In addition to our partners in both parties, the diverse DREAM student community had a major impact on getting the bill to the floor. Every step of the way, DREAMers were there to show the world how important this legislation is for the economy and for the preservation of American ideals. Hearing from DREAMers was important for legislators in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and as we continue to work toward passing this bill, we want to continue hearing from them.
Though no bill has been introduced yet, there are rumors that a Republican effort for immigration reform is in the works and is being led by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. We do not know the text of any new legislative proposal, but if the Rubio Plan bars citizenship it would be the first time in modern history that someone has proposed a law that would permanently prohibit citizenship to one segment of American society
Earning citizenship is essential because mere legal residency will serve only as a life sentence to being relegated to an underclass status. It is against the values of our country to ask DREAMers to work hard, pay taxes and sacrifice their lives for our country, but deny them citizenship. It is also contrary to the long-established legal principle that you don’t punish children for the acts of a parent.
Many have called the Rubio Plan ‘DREAM-lite,’ but any legislation that does not allow a pathway to citizenship is not worthy of being connected to the DREAM Act. When it comes to immigration reform, it has been argued that ‘something is better than nothing,’ but is it really something if it guarantees a lifelong block to equality? The DREAM Act is not dead, but it must be resuscitated with bipartisan support.
It is unacceptable to keep a group of young people in a state of uncertainty and to restrict their ability to assimilate and become fully vested in this great country. The American people appear to agree. According to a poll conducted by Fox News in December, 66 percent of all registered voters supported a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who paid taxes, learned English and had no criminal background.
For the future of our country and our economic well-being, and in keeping with our nation’s proudest tradition of fairness and justice, let’s pass the DREAM Act with the bipartisan support it deserves. Let’s give young people the chance to someday raise their right hands and take an oath of devotion and allegiance to the only country they have ever known and loved. Anything less will be a dream unfulfilled for the students and our nation.
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