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Yesterday, Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) took to the stage at the Center for American Progress to launch a new website featuring the lives and stories of DREAMers. (We live-tweeted the event here.)
Durbin has long been one of the foremost advocates of immigration reform and the DREAM Act, first sponsoring the bill to help undocumented youth more than eleven years ago. As National Journal quoted him yesterday:
During the civil rights movement, hearts and minds weren’t changed by debates about abstract principles like equal protection. Instead it was people like John Lewis, who had the courage to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge, knowing he would face billy clubs, dogs and fire hoses.
In the same way, the Dreamers come out as undocumented, knowing they might face deportation from the only home they know back to countries they don’t even remember.
Like John Lewis, I believe some of these courageous Dreamers will go on to serve their country in the United States Congress and other leadership roles.
Durbin lifted up the stories of DREAMers like Gaby Pacheco, Mandy Barsch, Eric Balderas, Erika Andiola, Cesar Vargas, Tereza Lee, Tolu Olubunmi, and many others, before telling the story of his immigrant mother’s own journey to the US.
“I’m the son of an immigrant,” Durbin said at one point. “And damn proud of it.”
Durbin also mentioned the Obama DREAM relief that the president announced in June, noted that it was about time that deferred action for DREAMers was granted, but cautioned that the act could easily be undone by the next president. He implored his audience to keep fighting for the DREAM Act, which he said was sure to become a reality sooner rather than later.
“Ultimately,” Durbin said, “it is up to Congress to pass a law” that could be a permanent solution for DREAMers.
When a member of the audience asked Durbin about Rep. Steve King (R-IA)’s plan to sue Obama in order to stop the DREAM relief, Durbin was dismissive.
“I can tell you the legal matter has been thoroughly researched,” Durbin said. “Congressman King, we know where he’s coming from, and he can continue this if he’d like, but after all that we’ve been through and all these DREAMers have been through, a court challenge is not going to slow us down one bit.”