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Senator Durbin’s Office: First-Ever Hearing on DREAM Act Tomorrow

27 Jun

DREAMers are back and they’re stronger than ever! Senator Durbin (D-IL) has announced the “first-ever hearing on the DREAM Act” happening tomorrow at 10am ET.  Watch it live here!

On his website:

Senator Durbin (D-IL)

“DURBIN ANNOUNCES FIRST-EVER SENATE HEARING ON THE DREAM ACT

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced today that he will chair the first-ever Senate hearing on the DREAM Act next Tuesday, June 28th, at 10:00 am ET. The hearing will be in room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.

“I’ve been working on the DREAM Act for over ten years,” Durbin said. “In that time, it’s been reported out of committee by a large bipartisan margin, passed the House of Representatives, and received a bipartisan majority vote in the Senate, only to fall because of a filibuster. I’ll convene the first-ever Senate hearing on this bill next week to discuss how the DREAM Act will make our country stronger by giving undocumented students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing.”

Durbin will chair the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security. The hearing will be webcast live on the Judiciary committee’s website.

The following witnesses will testify: Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano; Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan; Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Dr. Clifford Stanley; DREAM Student, Ola Kaso; Lt. Colonel (retired) Margaret Stock; and Director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies, Steven Camarota. “

Will this lead to fresh discussion or continued frustration? What has to happen for “progress” in favor of DREAMers? How can we define progress?

President Obama Primes Senate Floor Re-introduction of DREAM Act

13 May

by Regina Cantu @ Matt.org

No sooner did President Obama finish his speech in Texas on Tuesday, announcing his backing of a complete immigration overhaul, did Democrats Sen. Richard Durbin reintroduced the following day the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, and Majority Whip Richard Durbin and 30 others of their colleagues have signed on to support the bill, which failed in Congress last year.

The Dream Act would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants who entered the United States prior to their 16th birthday provided they attend college or serve in the military, and meet various other conditions. According to the Immigration Policy Center, about 65,000 undocumented students brought to the U.S. by their parents as very young children, graduate from high school each year and face a bleak future because of their status.

A study released last year by the Migration Policy Instituteindicates that the DREAM Act could benefit up to 2.1 million undocumented youth, even though only about 825,000 would gain permanent legal status.

Unfortunately, Republicans are largely against the Dream Act. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said he sympathizes with these children. [However,] “[t]he DREAM Act doesn’t solve our illegally immigration problem, it exacerbates it. Amnesty will encourage millions more parents to bring their children to the U.S. illegally.

Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition welcomed the move, but pointed out that the bill faces a slim chance in the current Congress and said the President should use the authority of his office to protect young undocumented immigrants.

In the meantime, given the legislative reality, we call on the President to use his executive authority to grant deferred action to young people who would be eligible for the DREAM Act—which would allow these young people to come out of the shadows to live and work without the threat of deportation until Congress passes the DREAM Act.”

The Immigration Policy Center released a statement with a similar message.

“If Congress fails to act, the Administration can and should take more decisive steps to ensure that the values driving their legislative agenda are reflected in their implementation and interpretation of current law. DHS should ensure that its officers use their prosecutorial discretion to defer the removal of any eligible student caught up in the broken immigration system.”

In his immigration speech on Tuesday in El Paso, even though he called on Congress to pass the DREAM Act, President Obama explicitly said he would not use his executive powers to stop deportations. He denounced the current situation which he terms “cruel” and said “makes no sense.” As President Obama put it:

“So we’re going to keep fighting for the DREAM Act. We’re going to keep up the fight for reform. And that’s where you come in. I’m going to do my part to lead a constructive and civil debate on these issues…We’ve got leaders here and around the country helping to move the debate forward. But this change ultimately has to be driven by you, the American people. You’ve got to help push for comprehensive reform, and you’ve got to identify what steps we can take right now, like the DREAM Act, like visa reform, areas where we can find common ground among Democrats and Republicans and begin to fix what’s broken.a comprehensive plan for modify the immigration laws and to strengthen border security.”

It’s been 10 years since the bill was first introduced by Sen. Durbin. Last fall, despite President Obama’s strong support, the DREAM Act passed the House but failed to attract the 60 votes needed to end a Senate filibuster.

Success! Deportation Halted for Some Students

27 Apr

by Regina Cantu @ Matt.org

Olga Zanella, a Texas resident born in Mexico and currently a college student, could not bring herself to make plans to make a life in Mexico after being told American immigration authorities were working resolutely to deport her.

Zanella has been living illegally in the United States since her parents brought her here when she was 5, and the thought of moving to a violent country she does not remember, where she had no close family, rattled her with fear. She was pulled over by the local police in February 2009 as she was driving in her hometown, Irving, Tex., and did not have a driver’s license. The police handed her over to immigration agents and she has been fighting her deportation for two years. Ms. Zanella is studying at North Lake College in Irving to become a dentist. The police in Irving never explained why they stopped her and never issued any traffic ticket,

Her case looked bleak, but in recent days everything changed. Last Thursday, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in Dallas summoned Ms. Zanella and told her she could remain in this country, under the agency’s supervision, if she stayed in school and out of trouble.

Encouraged by the surprising turnaround, Ms. Zanella’s parents and two siblings, who also had been living in the United States illegally, presented papers late Monday to ICE, as the agency is known, turning themselves in and requesting some form of legal immigration status.

ICE’ eventual decision in Ms. Zanella’s case is an example of the kind of action Democratic lawmakers and Latino and immigrant groups have been demanding from the Obama administration to slow deportations of illegal immigrants who have not been convicted of crimes. In particular, pressure is increasing on President Obama to offer protection from deportation to undocumented immigrant college students who might have been eligible for legal status under a bill in Congress known as the Dream Act.

In an April 13 letter, the top two Democrats in the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada and Richard Durbin of Illinois, asked the president to suspend deportations for those students. But short of that, the senators asked Mr. Obama to set guidelines by which those students could come forward individually to ask to be spared deportation and to obtain some authorization to remain in the United States. The letter was signed by 20 other Senate Democrats. The Dream Act passed the House but failed in the Senate in December.

Homeland Security officials have said their focus is increasingly on removing immigrants who are convicted criminals. That, in fact, is what an ICE official told Ms. Zanella in explaining the new decision in her case.

As long as I do well in school and stay out of trouble, I will be out of trouble with ICE,” Ms. Zanella said she was told. She has to report to ICE every month.

In a similar story, immigration authorities also suspended the deportation on Tuesday of Mariano Cardoso, 23, a Mexican student at Capital Community College in Connecticut, according to Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, who had pressed Mr. Cardoso’s cause. ICE’s decision ended a two-year battle against deportation for Mr. Cardoso.

But nationwide the administration’s deportations policy remains confused and erratically implemented, immigration lawyers said, with many students and immigrants without criminal records being deported

*Pictured: Zanella, high school graduation

Cardoso, News Tribune

Justice for Children of the Deported

11 Apr

by Regina Cantu

It’s a story we often hear but may not always sympathize with — immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally are detained and sent back to their home countries. Often they are forced to leave their families behind, including U.S.-born kids. But Kelli Valdez’s article for the Chicago Tribune is a reminder of the damage that deportation, and the forced separation of a family, causes to children.

According to Valdez, the separation creates an “angry generation” of children who were traumatized but still choose to stay in the U.S. rather than face potential poverty, violence, and cultural and language barriers in their country of origin. For some, advocates say, life in America is all they know.

Apparently these kids aren’t considered “American enough” for this to be a concern. I’ve heard several anti-immigrant spokespeople claim there’s no reason parents should “get off the hook just because their kids are put in a difficult position,” that “children often suffer because of the mistakes of their parents.” But this doesn’t excuse the failure of federal policies to provide legal protection for child migrants. There is a definite void in immigration law in terms of the best interest of the child: 90 percent of underage migrants don’t have a lawyer, as estimated by the Immigrant Child Advocacy Project.

More than 5 million children currently live in the US with at least one undocumented parent and 3.1 million of these children are citizens of the US. Parents of these children are in danger of deportation or detention, putting the families at risk of separation, emotional stress and economic hardship. Recent reports have shown the severe effects of raids and parental arrests on children, such as difficulty sleeping, nightmares, anxiety, increased levels of crying, eating less, fear of law enforcement officials, temporary drop in school performance, and aggression.

Separating these families is wrong, but not just because of how detrimental it is on the children. It is wrong because in so many cases, these kids have fully integrated themselves into American society. If allowed to stay, these children will contribute to it and be upstanding citizens, joining the workforce and become productive, patriotic Americans.

DREAMer Pedro Gutierrez Talks About Being Deported

30 Mar

by Regina Cantu @ Matt.org

Via America’s Voice, Pedro Gutierrez speaks about his difficult childhood and his dream to join the Marines. Pedro was desperately counting on the DREAM Act to pass.

He’s an orphan who grew up in Arizona and has no family or friends in Mexico. His grandmother brought him to the US at the age of 7, but passed away when he was still a child.

In the face of incredible adversity, Pedro has managed not only to survive, but to thrive, and he attributes this to the opportunities afforded to him in the United States. Pedro is admired by many for his spirit and tenacity, and above all for his desire to give back to his country by joining the US Marine Corps. The local recruiting officer, with whom Pedro has been in constant communication, considers him a perfect candidate.

Still, Pedro persevered with the support of his community. He graduated from high school and now dreams of joining the Marines.

Watch Pedro’s story:

Stop Future Marine\’s Deportation

“I now realize that the only way for me to be able to stay in Arizona, my home, is for President Obama to allow for me to stay. It is his choice whether I am deported to a country I do not know or if I am allowed to stay in Arizona and give back to my community. I ask President Obama to please let me serve this nation,” says Pedro.

Until President Obama takes targeted administrative action to re-examine the deportation of DREAM Act-eligible youth in removal proceedings, ICE will continue to deport DREAMers like Pedro. For every Dreamer we see in the papers, there are hundreds more without a voice being deported.

[Take action here to help stop Pedro’s deportation.]