DreamAct: Immigration Reform & Call to Action (Updated)

The DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act would enable the children of immigrants to apply to become permanent residents and put them on the path to citizenship (you may have noticed the poll up now in our banner).   Under the DREAM Act, young people who meet a number of requirements, including: arriving in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, living here for at least five consecutive years, have a high school diploma or GED, and demonstrate “good moral character,” which in this context means no criminal justice involvement, would be eligible to apply for citizenship.  There’s more detailed information from the National Immigration Law Center here (pdf).  The fact is, tens of thousands of children grow up in this country as de facto citizens but then are blocked from pursuing their dreams of a college education or military service because of their de jure legal status.   It diminishes everyone when these hard-working young people are not allowed to pursue their dreams, or worse yet, forced to leave the country.

It’s a form of discrimination based on racial and legal distinctions that are without merit.   And, as with other forms of discrimination, blocking educational attainment and deporting people who want to make a contribution to society as a whole makes no sense.  Ju tells of his experience growing up in the U.S.:

I was born in South Korea, and I came to the United States when I was twelve years old. At first, I had a tough time learning English and I had a difficult time to adapt American culture due to lack of support from the Asian community. Therefore, I never knew what it means to be living in a strong Asian community where people help one another, build strong relationships, and live a fulfill life within a secure family. And unfortunately, I’ve experienced racism, classism, segregation, and discrimination from the privileged people. Yes indeed, Asian Americans have been oppressed and marginalized by the dominant society. Furthermore, we have been treated as minority and perceived as second class citizens.

There are many more stories like Ju’s at the Dream ACTIVST.   If you want to take some action, you can sign the Dream Act 2009 Petition.

Another young person’s story that has been circulating around various social networking sites and forwarded through email recently, is that of Rigoberto Padilla.  Padilla is a student in the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago and he is currently facing deportation.    Last winter, he was arrested by the Chicago Police for a minor driving violation. While in police custody, his undocumented status was discovered by ICE officials, who charged him with entering the United States without authorization in 1994 as a six-year-old child. Even though his misdemeanor is not a deportable offense, his deportation is now set for December 16, 2009 – less than two weeks from now.

Faculty at the UIC where Padilla is a student are organizing to stop Padilla’s deportation are asking everyone to sign an online petition requesting an administrative closure of his case.  The online petition automatically sends faxes to the offices of Janet Napolitano (Secretary of Homeland Security), John Morton (Director of I.C.E.), Senator Richard Durbin and Senator Roland Burris.

Although the Dream ACT has enjoyed bipartisan support, it was originally introduced into the Senate in June 2002 by Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) was also a supporter, the bill has faced a number of legislative set backs.  It is currently listed as “open” and, ironically enough, also under the purview of Senator Durbin (D-IL).   If you want to do something to stop the deportation of Rigoberto Padilla and to help the thousands of other young ‘dreamers’ you can contact  Sen. Durbin at D.C. office: (202) 224-2152 or his Chicago office:(312) 353-4952,  or, you can contact him using this online form.

Update as of 12/11/09 from the organizers: “We have great news. With your support, we have been able to stop the deportation of UIC student Rigo Padilla.  Yesterday, he was granted a one-year deferment by the Department of Homeland Security. This was accomplished through the efforts of local and national elected officials, Chicago City Council, Berwyn City Council, community groups, UIC administration, faculty and students, university professors nationwide, media and the general public who expressed their support for Rigo and the plight of all undocumented students nationally. The campaign generated 1,159 faculty petitions and over 18,000 individual petitions to DHS Director Janet Napolitano, ICE Director John Morton, Sen. Richard Durbin and Sen. Roland Burris.”