A Miami-based organization of young immigration reform activists, Students Working for Equal Rights, recently walked from Miami to Washington, D.C., in an effort to pressure Congress — and Florida lawmakers in particular — to support the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
The “Unleash the Dream” report published by the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center says the DREAM Act, first introduced in 2001, “offers a path to legal status to deserving high-school graduates who stay out of trouble and attend college or serve in the U.S. military for at least two years. The legislation would also eliminate a federal requirement that penalizes states that allow undocumented students equal access to in-state tuition.”
SWR’s efforts are part of a nationwide push to convince legislators to support the DREAM Act. Mohammad Abdollahi of Ann Arbor, Mich., recently staged a sit-in at the Tucson, Ariz., office of Sen. John McCain, and in San Francisco, seven students were arrested during a peaceful sit-in to call on Sen. Diane Feinstein to support the bill.
“We walked in support of the DREAM Act,” says SWER member Juan Rodriguez, a 20-years-old Colombian native who has lived in Miami since the age of 6, “and to tell President Obama to sign an executive order to stop detention and deportation of students brought to the U.S. when they were minors, many of whom have immediate family members who are citizens or residents.”
The latest versions of the DREAM Act, S. 729 and H.R. 1751, were reintroduced in April 2009. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida supports the Senate version. In the House, eight Florida representatives support the bill, might oppose the bill, three might vote yes and one is undecided.
“We have spoken to U.S. Sen. for Florida George LeMieux seeking his support for the DREAM Act. But he hasn’t given an answer yet. We have to work to avoid a law like S.B. 1070 in Florida,” says 19-year-old David Frederick.
Frederick, like thousands of other Haitians, was granted Temporary Protected Status for 18 months thanks to an order signed by President Obama after the January earthquake in Haiti. He is the director of Haitian American Youth of Tomorrow, a Miami-based organization that has advocated for civic and political organizing as well as immigration reform since 1995.
Ken Lundberg, the spokesperson for Sen. LeMieux says, “The senator believes children should not have to pay for the transgressions of their parents. But at the same time, we have to be careful any change in federal law doesn’t have the unintended consequence of incentivizing additional illegal immigration.”
[Pic via swer.org]