DREAMers testify in U.S. House: ‘No thanks’ to proposal that would separate families


by Félix Pérez/image above, DREAMer sister Pamela Rivera testifying at congressional hearing

In Washington, truth can be stranger than fiction. Case in point is a House committee hearing yesterday, at which some of the same Republican members of Congress who voted last month to force DREAMer students to leave the country or be deported spoke in favor of granting DREAMers a path to citizenship.

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“In some cases, [DREAMers] came here as toddlers. They have grown up as Americans,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte of Virginia. Goodlatte, along with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, also a Republican, are drafting a bill that reportedly would clear the way for certain DREAMers to become citizens.

‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ is the response from DREAMers. Young people who were brought to the United States as children by their parents, DREAMers are unified in saying they cannot support a law that separates them from their parents and from their brothers and sisters.

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Image courtesy of United We Dream

Rosa Velazquez, who has lived in Arkansas since age 5, testified at yesterday’s hearing why singling out DREAMers for relief falls short. “If Congress were to adopt an incomplete solution that would provide a path to earned citizenship for DREAMers like me, but something less for our parents, it would be like saying that I can now be one of you, but my parents can never be.”

Representative Luis Gutiérrez, of Illinois, while commending his Republican colleagues at the hearing for addressing the status of DREAMers, was no less definitive in his opposition to the DREAMer-only proposal. “Let me be clear and unequivocal,” said Gutiérrez. “Legalizing only the DREAMers is not enough. It is not enough given all the hard work and equities that millions of immigrants have built in this country.”

Kaysville, UT, teacher Annie Brewer, like many educators, understands the importance of keeping students’ families intact. She recounted her experience with her now-former student Joaquin, who was forced to set aside his academic dreams because of his citizenship status and the death of his father. “I speak for thousands of other bright, hard-working Joaquins who cannot speak for themselves for fear of repercussions to themselves or their struggling families. Working together, we must continue to speak until their voices are heard and valued as contributing members of our society.”

Similarly, the National Education Association urged the committee members to preserve families. Said Mary Kusler, director of NEA Government Relations, in a letter to the committee:

Family unity plays a critical role in student success. Yet growing numbers of public school students live in fear that our nation’s immigration policies will break up their families, forcing them to choose between their country and their loved ones — mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. Family-based immigration is essential to keeping America strong.

Pamela Rivera, a graduate student at Florida State University and U.S. citizen, is painfully familiar with the consequences that a broken immigration system can have on a family. Rivera testified before the House committee that her mother was deported six years ago after a traffic stop, and one of her younger sisters, Evelyn, who has lived here since she was a toddler, lives in fear of deportation.

“My sisters and I worked hard in school and all earned the Bright Futures Scholarships,” said Rivera. “Living in a mixed status family, I have learned to cherish every moment I have with my family, especially since we have lost our mother. . . It has now been over six years since Eve has seen our mom. It has been six years since her life as she knew it came to a halt. This is the only home she knows, she broke no laws, she did nothing wrong, yet she is punished every day and forced to live in limbo.”

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