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Ten years after it was first introduced, the DREAM Act got its first ever hearing in the Senate today, giving hundreds of DREAMers in the audience and around the country some measure of renewed hope as Senate Democrats took up the issue once again.
At the hearing was a veritable who’s who of DREAMers and activists, including Pulitzer Prize winning writer Jose Antonio Vargas, who prompted a national debate when he came out as undocumented last week; Gaby Pacheco of United We Dream; Mandeep Chahal, whose deportation was stayed just a few days ago; Tolu Olubunmi, who spoke at the DREAM Act reintroduction last month; Ola Kaso, who testified this morning; Cesar Vargas, a military DREAMer who graduated from the same high school as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY); Mariano Cardoso, an engineering student whose April deportation was halted with help from Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Governor Dan Malloy; and many, many others. DREAMers in colorful graduation robes and caps milled around, with paper diplomas in hand and signs supporting the DREAM Act taped on their hats. The room where the hearing was held quickly filled up and was closed off, as did an overflow room, leaving many activists and supporters this morning waiting for a seat in the hall.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the original author of the DREAM Act, gave the opening statement:
When I look around this room, I see the future doctors, nurses, scientists, and soldiers who will make this country stronger. 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 our country, if we would only give them a chance.
Opponents of the DREAM Act always say they sympathize with DREAM Act students. They criticize the details of the bill, but they offer no alternative. Do they want these young people to be deported to countries that they barely remember? Or to continue living in the shadows?