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Labor and Civic Engagement Leaders Call DREAM Act Vote a Defining Moment in History

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Washington – With a Saturday vote on the DREAM Act looming, Latino, labor and community leaders hosted a telephonic press conference today to call on senators from both parties to support the DREAM Act.  Last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture on the bill, setting up a Saturday vote that will determine whether the DREAM Act becomes law this year, and whether thousands of bright and talented young people who grew up in America can get on a path to legal status and achieve their dreams.

Labor and advocacy organizations that mobilize Latino and new American voters are calling Saturday’s vote a defining moment in each senator’s career.  Immigration has become a litmus test issue for Latino and immigrant voters and tomorrow’s vote will be a moment of truth in Washington.  Will senators stand with the DREAM students and give them an opportunity to further their educations or join the military in the only country they know as home?  Or will they turn their backs on these young leaders, and ignore the calls from the educators, military, law enforcement, religious, labor, business, and civil rights leaders to help them realize their dreams?

“We will be watching closely to see which Senators choose to rise above the deadening partisanship in Washington,” said Josh Bernstein, Director of Immigration for Service Employees International Union.  “We will be watching closely to see who will be ‘dream killers’ rather than pass smart common sense legislation that helps our economy, shores up our military, and opens the doors of opportunity to these high-achieving youth.”

Gabe Gonzalez, National Director for the Campaign for Community Values at the Center for Community Change, emphasized the strength of the pro-DREAM Act movement.  “This year, immigration reform advocates have repeatedly shown our movement’s power. In the last two weeks alone, we’ve delivered more than 200,000 calls to Congress and will make tens of thousands more in the next 24 hours before the vote. For our constituencies, this is not just another vote.  This is about our young people.  It is personal, and we will remember who stood with them and who stood in their way. We will be watching this vote, because we vote, too.

“Tomorrow’s vote draws a clear line.  Arguments and objections to get to this vote have been addressed.  There is nowhere left to hide.  It comes down to a very simple and clear choice:  members who choose to stand for innocent children, and members who do not,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.  “Latinos, the fastest-growing electorate in the country, will remember exactly which side these Senators chose, and will see it as an indication of who stands for our families and our communities.  It is a vote that we will remember for generations to come.”

Tom Snyder, Chief of Staff for UNITE HERE, provided a reminder of the voting power of the Latino and immigrant community.  “Last month, immigrants came out to vote in huge numbers in places like Nevada, California, Colorado and elsewhere. There can no longer be any doubt that in the coming years they will vote in ever larger numbers. And they will remember who stood up for their dreams and who stood against them.”

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, concluded, “The only way to find out if we have the 60 votes needed is by calling the question with the vote in the Senate on Saturday.  It’s worth recalling that when the vote was called in the House of Representatives most predicted we would fall short, and we won by a margin of 20 votes. Each and every Senator knows that a vote against these talented young people will define them with Latinos and new American voters the rest of their political careers. ”

The DREAM Act, a bipartisan bill that is supported by 66% of the American people, would enable young people who came to the country as children, but lack legal immigration status, to enlist in the U.S. military or attend college on their way to becoming full U.S. citizens.  Seventy-five percent of Latino voters say passing the DREAM Act in short order is either extremely important or very important.