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Posts Tagged ‘DREAM Act’

statue_of_liberty_200x150In a year-end bipartisan near miracle, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have come together to propose a bill to provide protection for young immigrants who have been granted or are eligible for protection from deportation under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. DACA is an executive order implemented by the Obama administration. Because it is an executive order, and not a bill passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, it could easily be rolled back by the incoming administration. That is why bipartisan congressional action is so essential for young immigrants who want to continue to contribute to America, the only home they have ever known.

Senator Durbin and Graham’s bill, Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy Act or the BRIDGE Act, will be introduced in the new year in the new Congress to protect immigrants brought to the United States as children without documentation. These are our children; they played by the rules attending school with our children, graduating from our high schools. Mirroring DACA, BRIDGE applicants would be required to pay a fee, undergo criminal background checks, and be determined not to pose a security threat.

These young people did nothing wrong, and have contributed to our communities. They want to continue their education and legally work in the United States. They need Congress and the American people to make it possible.

We applaud Senator Durbin and Senator Graham for working together to protect those young people who have or are eligible for DACA. Let this year-end bipartisan act be a harbinger of a new year and a new Congress brimming with bipartisan bills that bring Americans together. Only then will we be able to tackle the underlying issue: create a bipartisan bridge to an immigration system that works for the United States with a path out of the shadows for undocumented immigrants who want to get in a line for legal immigration status.

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Friday, June 15, was an exciting day. After years of advocacy on the part of individuals and organizations concerned about the plight of undocumented students, President Obama held a Rose Garden ceremony to announce temporary relief for young people who, though raised in the United States, have no legal immigration status because they were brought to the country illegally as children.

The policy change the president announced will allow undocumented young people who fit very specific criteria to apply for temporary relief from possible deportation under a little-known avenue called deferred action.

Deferred action is a policy of prioritization. It recognizes the need to focus Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enforcement resources on the highest-priority cases, while, at the same time, taking into account compelling circumstances of individual immigrants that warrant putting immigration enforcement on hold for a defined period of time. Recognizing that these individuals must support themselves while in the United States, there is the option to apply for work authorization.

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In 2004, NAFSA’s Board of Directors authorized the association to engage in the emerging debate over comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). We entered this debate because we believed three things.

First, a comprehensive bill would most likely be the vehicle for the provisions involving high-skilled immigration in which we were most interested; therefore, we had to be at the table when decisions regarding CIR were made. Second, a dysfunctional immigration regime placed limits on our ability to maintain a robust system of educational and scholarly exchange. And third, our immigration system was an important part of the face that the United States presented to the world:  In an era of global mobility, how could America attract the best international students and scholars if our immigration laws were pre-global age and our immigration debate screamed anti-foreign sentiment? We hold these beliefs even more strongly today, but as the debate has proceeded and gotten uglier, the association’s commitment to CIR in itself—as an expression of our most fundamental values—has grown more profound.

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In November, NAFSA released a statement calling on President Obama to lead a national conversation on immigration reform. The president took an important step in that direction in last night’s State of the Union address.

The President has spent most of his first term responding to the immigration opponents’ position that they will not talk about immigration reform until enforcement is beefed up and the border is secured. He has deported record numbers of illegal immigrants and devoted unprecedented resources to our southwest border. Last night, the President cashed in that investment. He said,

“I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration. That’s why my administration has put more boots on the border than ever before. That’s why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office. The opponents of action are out of excuses. We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now.”

We applaud the President for reminding the nation that this problem isn’t going to fix itself – and we simply must do the hard work of reforming our immigration laws.

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In 1966, when America was becoming bogged down in the Vietnam War—a problem seemingly as intractable as the immigration problem seems today—Sen. George Aiken of Vermont proposed a novel solution. He said we should just declare victory and get out.

A similar proposal seems in order with respect to today’s war against illegal immigration from Mexico—and with much better reason. Demographers such as Jeffrey Passel of the Pew Hispanic Center now tell us that “We have reached the point where the balance between Mexicans moving to the United States and those returning to Mexico is essentially zero.” That doesn’t mean that illegal immigration has ceased, nor will it ever. It does mean that there is no net migration from Mexico any longer. There is dispute about the relative weight of the factors that account for this, but there is none about what the main factors are: the economic downturn and stepped up enforcement in the United States, and more opportunity in Mexico. The flow of Central Americans seeking to transit Mexico to enter the United States illegally is also down due to the vastly increased danger from criminal gangs in Mexico that prey on these migrants.

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Jody OlsenBy Jody K. Olsen
A Montgomery County, Maryland, high school principal and close friend told me in March of the number of top graduating seniors at her school who were undocumented and thus being denied access to many colleges nationally and required to pay out-of-state tuition at public universities in the state they and their parents called home.  The tuition difference was $10,000 to $16,000, making college unaffordable for most. They had worked so hard academically and dreamed of giving their talents back to Maryland.

Because of NAFSA’s longtime national advocacy efforts, I was familiar with the proposed federal solution to this problem known as the DREAM Act – a bill championed by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin that would give eligible undocumented students who were raised in the United States and educated in our schools the opportunity to attend college, serve in the military, and begin the long process of legalizing their immigration status. While this legislation has had widespread bipartisan support over the years, it has not yet been passed by Congress, causing states like Maryland to take up the issue.  Maryland’s political leaders rightly understood that while immigration matters must be dealt with at the federal level, what Maryland could and should do is to offer in-state tuition to these talented students.

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When I first heard about Jose Antonio Vargas’ campaign, Define American, the phrase was like a punch in the gut. Unlike Vargas, I’m not an illegal immigrant, and nothing about my appearance makes people wonder where I came from. But I am an immigrant, and like him and countless others, I have spent my life striving to live the definition of “being an American” that he articulates: hard work, a sense of deep pride in being here, and a desire to contribute.

My family moved to the United States when I was five years old, having defected from Hungary because of my parents’ disagreement with the communist regime there. Growing up in a small Texas town, we definitely stood out, with our funny name – Garay – our accents and, well, just for being “different.” As political refugees, we did have a path to citizenship, and we took it, but I consider this great fortune of mine to be simply an accident of birth – I’ve always understood that I could have just as easily been someone like Mr. Vargas. After all, the immigrant story in America is as deep and wide as the oceans people have crossed, for generations, to get here.

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The immigration debate is back in the spotlight in Washington, DC. Last week, President Obama met with political, business, and religious leaders to discuss the need for comprehensive immigration reform even though it is stalled in Congress. Regardless of the comprehensive debate, we have an opportunity to make a difference for young people raised in the United States by asking the Obama Administration to grant deferred action to students who would benefit from the DREAM Act in order to prevent their deportation.

The lack of congressional action has created a humanitarian crisis among young people in our communities. Thousands of children graduate from U.S. high schools each year without any hope of attaining a higher education, only because of something out of their control – they were brought to the United States illegally by their parents as children. Their lack of options is not only unfair to them, but also to the United States. It is an unnecessary loss of valuable talent to our country and our economy. These young people should have an opportunity to get right with the law and contribute to their communities to the best of their abilities by allowing them access to higher education.

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This may be the last chance for the DREAM Act to pass this year as the intense debate continues in Congress this week. Many of you have helped a lot along the way, and we need you again now to help dispel myths about the DREAM Act, and to keep up the pressure on Congress to do the right thing for undocumented students and for our country.

Yesterday the daily congressional newspaper The Hill published a letter by NAFSA’s CEO and Executive Director Marlene M. Johnson titled, DREAM Act is humane, good for the US economy. This letter reiterates several important facts about the DREAM Act which have been misrepresented in the current debate.

There are 3 simple things you can do to help, too:
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The DREAM Act has galvanized both supporters and opponents, and today the momentum – and the noise – is deafening. That’s because of anticipation that the Senate may move as early as this week to vote on the bill.

While the DREAM Act has enjoyed widespread bipartisan support over the years, you’ve probably heard the bill’s chances today aren’t great. However, the reality is that the opposition isn’t assuming victory – they’re flooding the Hill with faxes and calls. We need to be sure that we’re getting pro-DREAM Act letters to those offices too – to show support and to dispel myths about the legislation.

Please make a call or send a letter today telling your Senators why they should support the passage of this bill. We have talking points for you, and the draft of a letter, at Connecting Our World.

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