Not letting go of the DREAM

Senator Dick Durbin (D-III) just won’t let it go. And that’s a good thing when it comes to the DREAM Act, a bill that will provide a pathway to immigration compliance to thousands of undocumented students and young adults. Fueled by his passion for justice, Durbin is determined to see the DREAM Act become the law of the land. Others, like Senators Oren Hatch (R-Ut) and John McCain (R-Az), who originally co-sponsored DREAM, long ago fell victim to partisan politics and dropped their support for the decade old proposal. But, Senator-Durbin, who remains doggedly determined to do the right thing, has chaired the first ever hearing on the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act was originally conceived as a bipartisan measure to help a tiny segment of the undocumented population; the children of unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the US as youngsters and who, through no fault of their own, now find themselves living in immigration limbo without legal status or a chance to build a future in the only country most have ever known. The DREAM Act was a bill that attracted broad bipartisan support because it helped helpless children.

That’s how the DREAM Act started out anyway.

But a funny thing happened since it was first introduced in 2001. The helpless children are no longer either helpless or children. They have grown up to contribute richly to America’s culture and social fabric. Today, they are students, workers, artists, athletes and even Pulitzer Prize winning journalists. They include people like Gaby Pacheco, an extraordinary young woman, who has, against all odds, earned advance degrees and, at great personal risk, literally walked from Miami to Washington, D.C. to focus the country’s attention on the plight of the DREAMers and other undocumented immigrants; and Bernard Pastor of Cincinnati, Ohio who graduated in the top 5 percent of his class and led his high school varsity soccer team. And there are countless other DREAMers, including many adults, who have also, against all odds, managed to succeed. They are no longer dependent on their parents, who brought them here or the immigration advocates who have tried to help them. Rather, they now look to themselves to fix the broken immigration system that plagues America.

The DREAMers coming of age and self-empowerment were clear to anyone, who was fortunate enough to be at the US Senate this past December when the DREAM Act last came before the Congress. Hundreds of DREAMers had come to Washington from across the country to lobby their Senators to vote for DREAM. Its passage in the House of Representatives gave many hope that their dreams would finally come true; that they would no longer be relegated to a life of uncertainty and fear – not accepted in the country they have struggled against all odds to enrich-and forced to fear being handcuffed and jailed just for driving on an expressway, applying for a job, or boarding a train, bus, or a plane without proper papers. For the first time in years, it seemed that maybe, just maybe, Congress would finally offer a small segment of the undocumented population a pathway to earn compliance with the law and a chance to realize the American Dream.

But it was not to beat least not on that day.

And while the Senate failed to pass the DREAM Act last December, it is clear to all of us that the movement to pass