Senate Hearing on the DREAM Act

June 28, 2011

Photo by W. L. Doromal, DREAM Act rally, Orlando ©2010

A historic hearing was held today at the U.S. Senate. The first ever hearing on the DREAM Act featured testimony in support of the legislation from President Obama's Administration including DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Pentagon Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley. The President has made it clear that he supports the DREAM Act, which will provide a pathway to citizenship for thousands of undocumented aliens who were brought to the country by their migrant worker parents when they were children.

Under the legislation nonresidents could get legal status if:
They came to the United States when they were 15 or younger and have had a continuous presence in the states for at least five years;
They have good moral character;
They graduated from high school or obtained a GED;
They completed two years of college or military service in good standing.

The hearing room was packed with about 250 DREAMers who face deportation unless the legislation is passed. Among them was Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Filipino Jose Vargas who recently revealed that he was an undocumented alien. An overflow room held even more young people, some wearing graduation caps.

Senator Durbin (D-Illinois) stated:
'When I look around this room, I see America's future - our doctors, our teachers, our nurses, our engineers, our scientists, our soldiers, our congressmen, our senators and maybe our president. I ask my colleagues to consider the plight of these young people who find themselves in a legal twilight zone through no fault of their own. They are willing to serve the country they love. All they are asking for is a chance."
Senator Durbin told the young people in the hearing not to give up hope.

DHS Secretary Napolitano stated:
"The Dream Act supports these important priorities, because only young people who are poised to contribute to our country and have met strict requirements regarding moral character and criminal history would be eligible. These individuals do not pose a risk to public safety. They do not pose a risk to national security,"
DOE Secretary Duncan stated:
“They have deep roots here and are loyal to our country because in any event, this is the only home they have ever known.”

"I have seen numbers that show that of all the start-up companies that are coming out of Silicon Valley, about a fourth are started by immigrants. We need that talent. We need them to drive our country forward. They can be the fuel for our economic engine,"

GOP members at the hearing brought up a June 17, 2011 prosecutorial discretion memo from ICE that illustrates that the Obama Administration is committed to fair and considerate treatment of undocumented aliens who are not criminals or those who pose a risk to national security.

The memo allows liberal discretion:
Factors to Consider When Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion
When weighing whether an exercise of prosecutorial discretion may be warranted for a given alien, ICE officers, agents,and attorneys should consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to:
• the agency's civil immigration enforcement priorities;
• the person's length of presence in the United States, with particular consideration given to presence while in lawful status;
• the circumstances of the person's arrival in the United States and the manner of his or her entry, particularly if the alien came to the United States as a young child;
• the person's pursuit of education in the United States, with particular consideration given to those who have graduated from a U.S. high school or have successfully pursued or are pursuing a college or advanced degrees at a legitimate institution of higher education in the United States;
• whether the person, or the person's immediate relative, has served in the U.S. military, reserves, or national guard, with particular consideration given to those who served in combat;
• the person's criminal history, including arrests, prior convictions, or outstanding arrest
• the person's immigration history, including any prior removal, outstanding order of removal, prior denial of status, or evidence of fraud;
• whether the person poses a national security or public safety concern;
• the person's ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships;
• the person's ties to the home country and condition in the country;
• the person's age, with particular consideration given to minors and the elderly;
• whether the person has a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, child, or parent;
• whether the person is the primary caretaker of a person with a mental or physical disability, minor, or seriously ill relative;
• whether the person or the person's spouse is pregnant or nursing;
• whether the person or the person's spouse suffers from severe mental or physical illness;
• whether the person's nationality renders removal unlikely;
• Whether the person is likely to be granted temporary or permanent status or other relief from removal, including as a relative of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident;
• whether the person is likely to be granted temporary or permanent status or other relief from removal, including as an asylum seeker, or a victim of domestic violence, human trafficking, or other crime; and
• whether the person is currently cooperating or has cooperated with federal, state or local law enforcement authorities, such as ICE, the U.S Attorneys or Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, or National Labor Relations Board, among others.

This list is not exhaustive and no one factor is determinative. ICE officers, agents, and attorneys should always consider prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis. The decisions should be based on the totality of the circumstances, with the goal of conforming to ICE's enforcement priorities.
Read the entire memo:

If the Obama Administration recognizes the rights of the undocumented aliens, what more for the LEGAL, LONG-TERM NONRESIDENTS OF THE CNMI!


Anonymous said...

Well, wheather you are for improved status (green cards) or not for it (staying here in CNMI/being deported)the problem is as follows.
We are now it seems, and insanely so, in our 2012 election cycle. Now, look at the this headline and determine if it is a plus for the Dems.

Workers able to move to US and take jobs from Citizens

Yeah, not a great headline in these precarious economic times. Just bad timing for this really.
Let's not get flowerly in our thoughts of the US. Obama wants to get re-elected and I don't really see the big bump he will get from legally letting people come to the US and work. The right wing media machine will tear him apart for this (yes, a making mountain out of a molehill, but that's the way it is)
Right or Wrong, it's the silly season and that will rule everything. If it was in his interest to grant them green cards then they would have grant them...probably around September of next year.
Call me cynical, but I prefer realistic.
Oh, and my thoughts on the "new" regulations. They won't come out. They will extend the deadline for another year. They can and they will. After the election, you know.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 10:38

The hate radio media freaks, ignorant bigots and tea party sheep promote the lie that aliens are taking US citizen jobs or that the majority of US citizens actually have that fear. Few care to work in the fields or take other low paying jobs that the legal and illegal aliens fill. Actually American perception towards immigrants is improving.

It is doubtful that the partisan Congress will pass HR 1466 or any other immigration legislation this year.

I disagree with you that the regulations will not come out before November. I expect that they will by the end of the summer. There is no need for a guest worker program in the CNMI if the Congress grants the legal, long-term nonresident workers status. That is the only solution that makes sense from a social justice, political, human rights, and fiscal perspective. Grant them status and have the needed skilled workforce without the expense and hassle of a huge guest worker program.

Anonymous said...

Along the lines of Wendy's post above, this (unusually thoughtful, considering the source) piece from CNN, about a conservative small-town mayor who's standing up for immigrants:

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 6:11

Thanks for the link to the great article!