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Leaders from the Religious, Child Advocacy, and Immigrant Communities Urge ME Senators to Intervene

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Call for Federal Action on DREAM Act this September as a Step toward Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Portland, ME – Immigrant and child advocates joined religious leaders from Maine on a call today to press Congress to pass the DREAM Act in September and to urge Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to intervene in the deportation case of Selvin Arevalo, an American student who may soon be deported to Guatemala.  Selvin’s story is the most recent of thousands across the U.S. highlighting the need for federal action.  

Selvin, a Portland resident for ten years, came to the U.S. fleeing violence and poverty as a child.  He was about to receive his high school diploma when he was detained by local police, and is now at risk of being deported, despite his long-standing leadership and contributions to the Portland community.  

Isai Galvez, youth leader of Iglesia Pentecostal El Sinai and Selvin’s best friend, spoke about Selvin’s contributions to Portland and his battle with deportation.  “Selvin’s dream has always been to get his high school diploma and attend college but when he was detained, his hope of becoming an American citizen, graduating college and starting his own business was put in jeopardy,” said Gonzalez.  “I’m asking Senators Collins and Snowe, on behalf of the greater Portland community, to come to his defense and intervene on his behalf.  Selvin is a living example of why we desperately need the DREAM Act in order to protect the future leaders of our nation.” 

“I urge our Senators to consider the overall nature of Selvin’s character, selfless actions while in the United States, and commitment to his community,” insisted Marc Mutty, Director of Public Affairs for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.  “Selvin’s story calls for our understanding and assistance, proving once and for all why we need immigration reform that offers immigrants who come to the US in search of a better life a path to citizenship.”

Wendy Cervantes, Senior Director, Child & Family Immigrant Policy at First Focus, continued the call for passing the DREAM Act by saying, “For too long, innocent children and youth have been forced to pay the price due to our broken immigration system. As child advocates, we believe all children, regardless of race, class, or country of origin, have the right to achieve their full potential. Yet every day hundreds of thousands of children who grew up in the United States are forced to place their dreams on hold simply because of their inability to obtain legal immigration status. Even worse, these young people must live in constant fear of deportation to a country they may no longer remember. Passage of the DREAM Act would put these children, who now face an uncertain future, on a path to citizenship and provide them the opportunity to contribute to our nation.”

“I remember realizing I was undocumented as I approached my high school graduation at the top of my class, and feeling then that I was alone and powerless to fulfilling my dreams in the country I recognize as home,” said Juan Rodriguez of the Trail of DREAMs.  “My commitment since then has been for youth like Selvin to never feel that way again. No young person in this country should ever feel betrayed and banned from their American Dream.  Senators Collins and Snowe can help us ensure that.”

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “The DREAM Act is common sense, bipartisan legislation that is good for the students who qualify for it and good for our country.  These young people are Americans in every way but their citizenship, and it helps no one to keep them undocumented.  We applaud Senators Durbin and Lugar and Representatives Berman, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Roybal-Allard for their efforts to advance this legislation.  Senators Collins and Snowe voted for the DREAM Act in 2007, and they should encourage Democratic leadership to bring it up in 2010. Passing the DREAM Act on a bipartisan basis this year would be a sign that Washington is not completely broken, and an important stepping stone to comprehensive immigration reform early next year.”

Click here for recording of press call.