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no speaker took the opportunity to address the topic, and that gaping absence stood out like a sore thumb. (emphasis in original)
Luckily, speakers at this week’s Democratic National Convention had much more to say on the issue, going beyond vague platitudes about their immigrant parents and how the US is a nation of immigrants. They spoke about how immigrants currently contribute to our country and what must be done for immigrant youth who are already here. Below we’ve compiled a list of their statements—most of their statements refer to DREAMers and the deferred action program that President Obama recently enacted to allow them to request temporary protection from deportation:
Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-CA) is the highest ranking Latino in Congress and is a consistent champion of immigrants and immigration reform; he was instrumental in pushing for DREAM vote in House in 2010:
I’m not impressed by politicians who vow to veto the dream for immigrant children. That’s not the America my parents built.
Vice President Joe Biden:
Governor Romney believes that kids-the kids we call DREAMers—those immigrant children who were brought to America at a very young age, through no fault of their own—he thinks they’re a drag on America.
President Obama believes that even though these DREAMERs—these kids—didn’t choose to come to America-they’ve chosen to do right by America and we should do right by them.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the keynote speaker at the DNC:
And because he knows that we don’t have an ounce of talent to waste, the president took action to lift the shadow of deportation from a generation of young, law-abiding immigrants called dreamers.
Former President Bill Clinton:
If you think the President was right to open the doors of American opportunity to young immigrants brought here as children who want to go to college or serve in the military, you should vote for Barack Obama.
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) is the lead sponsor of the DREAM Act in the Senate and one of its most ardent champions. In April 2010, he and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) began the call to end the deportations of DREAMers and, along with Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), was instrumental in getting the President to provide relief to DREAMers:
Eleven years ago, I authored the DREAM Act. It took President Obama to finally bring these kids out of the shadows and into the America they have always called home.
Congressman Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX) is the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and another very strong voice for immigrants in contrast to his neighbor Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX):
When it comes to our country’s immigration policies, the truth is that Mitt Romney has embraced the racial profiling policies of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The truth is he would separate families that have been here for generations. The truth is he has embraced distrust and division at the expense of American values.
Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) is Chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has been the leading voice for immigration reform and the DREAM Act, often touring the country to protest deportations and separation of families
We are truly American when we live up to our original promise of liberty and celebrate those quintessentially American words, “all men are created equal.” My friends, on June 15th, President Obama made those words real. That day, he took steps to lift the shadow of deportation from deserving young people. People brought here as children. We call them the “dreamers,” because they are young people who want their shot at the American dream. They are students and volunteers and leaders. Many want to join the armed forces. They are true Americans. They are American in every way—except on paper.
From President Obama:
You’re the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home…
We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.
Kal Penn, actor and former Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement
One of the most special days was a Saturday in 2010. The Senate repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell,” so anyone can serve the country they love, regardless of whom they love. But that same day, the Dream Act was blocked. That bill would give immigrant children—who’ve never pledged allegiance to any flag but ours—the chance to earn their citizenship. Simple. Important.
I was in a small office on the second floor of the West Wing with eight other staffers. We’d worked our hearts out and cared deeply about what this would mean for other young people. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room—tears of joy for the history that was made, but also tears of sadness because some American dreams would still be deferred.
Five minutes later, President Obama walked in, sleeves rolled up. He said to us, “This is not over. We’re gonna keep fighting. I’m gonna keep fighting. I need young people to keep fighting.” That’s why we’re here!
Pedro Pierluisi, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico to the US Congress:
So there’s a choice in this election—between two divergent paths for this country and two fundamentally different value sets. The president is a champion of comprehensive immigration reform and is preventing the deportation of thousands of young men and women who were brought here as kids, have played by the rules and have done nothing wrong. Indeed, they are doing everything right by getting an education or serving in the military. But if Mitt Romney gets into office, he has vowed to overturn that action and veto the Dream Act if it ever passes Congress.
Congressman Jared Polis (D-IL), who now sits on the House Judiciary Committee and has been a vocal ally and consistent supporter of immigrants:
Diversity is America’s strength, and only by working together, as one nation, can we form a more perfect union. That is why President Obama brought to Washington a vision for one America—an America in which we can overcome divisions of red and blue to make our country greater.
It is why he’s fighting to make citizenship a reality for young immigrants who go to college or serve in our military.
Cristina Saralegui, a Cuban-American journalist and host of the Spanish-language show “Cristina”
President Obama has a detailed plan—you can find it right on his website. It’s a plan to grow our economy from the middle class out and the bottom up, not from the top down; a plan to invest in education and manufacturing; and a plan to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.
On immigration, Governor Romney’s views could not be more extreme. He says we should make life so unbearable for eleven million people that they simply “self-deport.” He said that Arizona’s immigration law should be a “model” for our country. He even made the architect of that terrible law an immigration advisor for his campaign. No protesten—voten! And he has promised to veto the Dream Act.
This election is about many things, but if you want to understand the values of the two candidates, all you have do is think about Benita, the lady who introduced me. Governor Romney calls young people like her “illegal aliens.” President Obama calls them “dreamers.” That is the difference in this election.
And last but certainly not least, Benita Veliz, a DREAMer who made history by being the first undocumented person to address a national political convention:
President Obama fought for the DREAM Act to help people like me. And when Congress refused to pass it, he didn’t give up. Instead, he took action so that people like me can apply to stay in our country and contribute. We will keep fighting for reform, but while we do, we are able to work, study and pursue the American dream.