Bi-partisan Effort to Halt Deportation of DREAM Students a Dramatic New Development in the Immigration Reform Debate
Washington, DC – Today, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) released a letter to the Obama Administration asking for a halt in deportations of immigrant youth who would be eligible for the DREAM Act, which would permit certain undocumented students to become permanent legal residents if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, and attend college or enlist in the military for at least two years.
At a time of unprecedented partisanship, Sens. Lugar and Durbin deserve tremendous credit for acting courageously and in a bipartisan fashion. According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “The letter is a significant new development in the ongoing immigration reform debate. This is the first time a bipartisan duo of leading lawmakers has made such a request, and it is a harbinger of things to come. Unless Congress moves quickly to enact immigration reforms, pressure will build on DHS to roll back the arbitrary and cruel excesses of the mass deportation strategies started under the Bush Administration and for the most part continued – and even expanded – under the Obama Administration.”
As a Senator and as a candidate, President Obama showed his understanding of these excesses and the need for change, saying in 2008, “When communities are terrorized by ICE immigration raids, when nursing mothers are torn from their babies, when children come home from school to find their parents missing, when people are detained without access to legal counsel, when all that is happening, the system just isn’t working, and we need to change it.”
But despite such calls for change and repeated assurances by the new Administration that it is targeting “the worst of the worst,” the Obama Administration is on track to exceed the deportation levels of the Bush Administration. The Obama Administration has also been mired in controversies surrounding reported “deportation quotas”, the detention of Haitians rescued from the earthquake and sent to the U.S, the extension of controversial agreements with local enforcement authorities that spawn terror among Latinos in local communities, and despicable treatment of detainees in its sprawling, privatized and often inhumane detention system. In fact, enforcement actions by DHS against DREAM Act kids has led to multiple protests and campaigns around the country in defense of those facing deportation. It has spurred some to “come out” as “Undocumented and Unafraid” and a group of four brave Dream kids to walk from Miami to Washington DC on the Trail of Dreams.
“This letter represents a huge challenge for the Obama Administration,” Sharry said. “On the one hand, will DHS continue to ramp up enforcement in which ordinary undocumented immigrants, mixed status immigrant families, and DREAM Act kids who just want to go to college, are arrested, detained and deported? Or will the Administration provide discretionary relief to hard working and otherwise law-abiding immigrants subjected to bad immigration laws, including young immigrants who came to this country at a young age, have established themselves as Americans in all but paperwork, and now face the prospect of being ripped away from the only country they know and love?”
“This letter proves the success of our Education not Deportation (END) Campaign,” said Mohammad Abdollahi co-founder of DREAMACTivist.org. “The END Campaign has been spearheaded by the very DREAM students affected by this issue and has successfully deferred the deportations of many DREAM-eligible students. We applaud the efforts of Senators Durbin and Lugar in recognizing the urgency for passage of the DREAM Act. Our nation cannot afford to have another decade of dreams deferred.”
The DREAM Act is a vital piece of immigration reform. Earlier this month, Senator Durbin made the commitment to lead on this issue and send the letter at a rally of over 1,200 immigrants and their supporters hosted by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). Upon release of today’s letter, ICIRR Board Leader Raul Raymundo said, “We are grateful that Senator Durbin understands that the indiscriminate deportation of immigrants, with no consideration of the circumstances or their contributions, makes absolutely no sense.”
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