Momentum builds for passage of the Dream Act

Hundreds of community members joined Rep. Nydia Velazquez, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, chair of the CHC’s immigration task force at a rousing rally in Brooklyn on Nov. 21, to ramp up momentum for the imminent vote on the DREAM Act during the lame duck session.

Participants also intensified their calls for President Obama to take executive action to end senseless deportations and put an end to programs that enlist local law enforcement officers as immigration agents.

“We should not be foolish enough to think that deporting more than 1,000 people a day is not tearing apart families, devastating communities, and fraying the moral fabric of our society,” said Rep. Gutierrez to hundreds gathered at St. Brigid’s Church in Bushwick. “We can take a stand by passing the DREAM Act and putting a stop to the fantasy that we will deport 12 million immigrants from this country.

“With the leadership of Senator Reid, Speaker Pelosi and President Obama, we will bring the DREAM Act across the finish line,” said Rep. Velazquez, who is largely credited for unifying the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as its chair during the last two years.

At this critical juncture during the lame duck session, House and Senate leaders had planned to bring the DREAM Act to a vote as soon as November 30, and the president had lent his support to making sure it passes.

The DREAM Act would allow young people who have been here at least five years, are of good moral character, and have graduated from high school to earn a path to citizenship through attending college or military service.

And with the likelihood of increasing partisan divides in Congress in the next session, speakers urged the president to assume the mantle of leadership by taking executive action to reverse the trend of ever-increasing and broad-based enforcement.

Under his administration, deportations have reached a record high—400,000 this year alone—and have targeted hard-working immigrants and family members who pose no threat to public safety.—the very people the President has said should be allowed a chance to come out of the shadows and earn a path to citizenship.

“Until we have comprehensive immigration reform that fully addresses our immigration crisis, there is plenty that can happen now to begin to create a fairer, smarter immigration system,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

Speakers also united in the call to stop the criminalization of immigrants and programs that turn local enforcement officers into immigration agents.

A review of one such program, Secure Communities, which ostensibly targets immigrants with serious criminal convictions, found that fully 79 percent of those deported under the program had no criminal record whatsoever or only minor infractions such as traffic violations.

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