DREAMers make progress in Congress, while public supports path to citizenship

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by Félix Pérez/photo by Lawrence Jackson of reporter Maria Rozman with President Obama

The effort in the House to modernize the nation’s immigration system remains fluid and far from complete, but recent developments suggest support has grown for a path to citizenship for DREAMers.

The No. 1 leader in the House, Speaker John Boehner, noncommittal until now, said Wednesday “basic fairness” dictates granting citizenship to DREAMers.

Said Boehner:

These children were brought here of no accord of their own, and frankly they’re in a very difficult position. And I think many of our members believe that this issue needs to be addressed.

Boehner’s endorsement was in response to a DREAM bill bring drafted by the House’s second in command, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bill Goodlatte, both Republicans of Virginia. The bill is expected to be made public after Congress returns from its August recess.

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Cantor said recently, “It’s an issue of decency and compassion. Where else would these kids go?”

In another development, Goodlatte’s committee announced yesterday it will discuss the status of DREAMers at a hearing this Tuesday.

Left outstanding, of course, is what happens to the parents of DREAMers.

Advocates such as the National Education Association and DREAMers themselves point out they will continue to push for a path to citizenship for parents and other aspiring Americans in the House and, should it come to pass, in conference committee, where differences between the House bills and the comprehensive Senate-approved bill would be resolved. The Senate legislation includes a five-year pathway for DREAMers and a 13-year wait for their parents.

To Karen Cox, a high school teacher in Albuquerque, NM, Congress should act in accord with the will of the American people and reform the immigration system now.

“DREAMers are American in everything but name. They have already earned their place and they deserve to be legal citizens of the U.S.”

Cox recounted a story of how she and another teacher teamed up to help a floundering but academically gifted DREAMer student. “By combining our forces to tag-team this student who had just given up, we were able to help him. Not only did he graduate but he was accepted into a small New Mexico college that is hailed as a ‘mini-MIT’ by all and is a nationally ranked top-20 school.”

Granting citizenship to aspiring Americans continues to have majority support among the public. According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 55 percent of people support a “pathway to citizenship,” a level nearly identical to three recent Post-ABC polls.

For his part, President Barack Obama is taking his message of immigration reform directly to the American people, urging them to contact their representative.

“Now’s the time to get this done,” the president told Maria Rozman of KUSA- 9 News in Denver on Tuesday. “It’s the right thing to do for our economy, but obviously it’s also the right thing to do with families all across the country.”

Asked if he will accept an immigration bill that does not include a path to citizenship, President Obama said:

It does not make sense to me if we’re going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix the system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved. Certainly for us to have two classes of people in this country – full citizens and people who are permanently resigned to a lower status – I think that’s not who we are as Americans. That’s never been our tradition.

Cox echoed a sentiment voiced by educators across the nation. “Students are our future. If we want our nation to continue to flourish, we have to walk our talk now. Our nation renews itself on the lifeblood of its people.”

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