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DREAMers Reject “Cruel and Unnecessary Distinctions” In Rep. Rivera’s Watered-Down Legislation

by Mahwish Khan on 03/12/2012 at 10:00am

david riveraIn what appears to be a desperate and craven effort to appeal to Latino voters, Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) has introduced his latest watered-down version of the DREAM Act. Via press release, DRM Capitol Group blasted Rivera’s bill – and asked him not to leave any DREAMers behind:

The Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status Act, or S.T.A.R.S. Act, proposed by Rep. Rivera (R-FL), while sounding like a good idea, is far from the more comprehensive DREAM Act that many undocumented youth organizations are fighting for. Although it would offer relief to a few people, it would leave behind the majority of our talented youth, who have also grown up in this country and have much to contribute.

Much of the press over the S.T.A.R.S Act has been generated by the case of Daniela Pelaez, who was almost deported. She is a bright 18 year old undocumented student from Colombia, and would qualify for the bill. To qualify for the S.T.A.R.S Act, a person must be brought into the country before the age of 16, must be 18 and 6 months or younger and maintained residence in the U.S. for at least 5 years. We understand the fear that Daniela went through and this proposal is a good idea for a private bill for her. But it is not the solution to the overall problem.

This proposal is an orchestrated attempt to appeal to the important Latino voting block that will be critical to the 2012 elections. Unfortunately, there is a tinge of hypocrisy by the Florida Latino Republicans as they have publicly endorsed the far-right Republican candidates like Mitt Romney, who promised to veto the DREAM Act if he became president or Newt Gingrich, who supported only the military component of the bill.  This S.T.A.R.S Act, essentially a watered-down DREAM Act, may very well be part of a long line of “DREAM-ish Acts” designed to mislead Latino voters.

“Stripping the DREAM Act into a million little pieces will get us nowhere,” said Gaby Pacheco, a DREAMer and leading activist in Florida.

As usual, Gaby nails it.

And, here’s the full statement from United We DREAM:

We greatly appreciate the efforts that politicians and youth nationwide have taken to halt the deportation of Ms. Daniela Pelaez and her sister, Dayana Pelaez. We are excited to see two new faces in the immigrant rights youth movement who are ready to fight for a comprehensive solution. As a network composed primarily of undocumented immigrant youth and young adults, the United We Dream (UWD) Network understands the pain and frustration felt by the Pelaez sisters and all DREAMers. For years, we have seen our youth graduate to have their dreams shattered. 

We have not yet seen the proposed Studying Toward Achieving Residency Status (STARS) Act, but based on news reports it appears to make cruel and unnecessary distinctions between equally deserving youth. For example, it reportedly would limit relief to individuals who are under 18 1/2 years old. That would mean that an 18 year old woman who was brought to the US when she was a toddler could qualify for relief, but her 19 year old sister who came on the same boat could not. That’s unreasonable. The same logic that compels relief for one sister applies equally to her older sibling. In both cases, our nation benefits by giving them a chance to contribute to our nation’s future, and it makes no sense for our Department of Homeland Security to expend resources to deport either one. 

We should remember that youth have fought for the DREAM Act since it was first introduced in Congress in 2001. They have fought for their dreams, and those of many others like the Pelaez sisters. Having the STARS Act as a substitute for the DREAM Act would not be fair to them. Just like having the Adjusted Residency for Military Service Act (ARMS Act) is not the solution. Congressman Rivera (R-FL) writer, of both bills, is beating around the bush. With a simple math equation one can see that STARS Act + ARMS Act ≠ DREAM Act. Neither of these bills alone are a real solution to the plight many undocumented youth face.

We are happy that this issue is once again being brought to the forefront. Nevertheless, the United We Dream Network will not support any legislation that intentionally excludes a large population of DREAM Act eligible youth and that attempts to divide Dreamers. The solution is not, and will never be, to narrow the pathway towards citizenship through watered-down pieces of legislation. (emphasis added)

While Rivera’s bill is portrayed to as an attempt to address the controversy (and the media) surrounding Daniela’s situation, it’s unclear if she could even benefit from the bill, and it certainly won’t help her sister. Daniela is 18, and her sister Dayana is 26. Given the fiercely anti-immigrant GOP leadership in the US House — remember, this falls under Rep. Lamar Smith’s jurisdiction — it’s highly unlikely that Rivera’s bill will pass (or even get a hearing) in the current Congress. Next year would be too late for Daniela under Rivera’s bill.

It’s hard to envision a more cynical political move than introducing a bill, purportedly to help a DREAMer, when that bill won’t even help that DREAMer. 

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