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Young Man of Faith Tells Congress: Give Me a Chance

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Bernard Pastor of Ohio Shows What’s at Stake for Politicians, Our Country in DREAM Act Debate

Washington, DC – As the DREAM Act moves toward a vote during the lame duck session of Congress, Republicans are busy dusting off their excuses for intransigence, inaction, and opposition to DREAM.  But the story of a young future pastor out of Ohio illustrates the compelling need for the DREAM Act, and what’s at stake for policymakers and our country if Republican lawmakers oppose this bill. 

The story of Bernard Pastor, an 18-year old from the Cincinnati, OH area, puts a “human face” on the DREAM Act debate.  Pastor, who aspires to be pastor of his own church, was brought to the United States from Guatemala at the age of three and subsequently graduated in the top five of his class at Reading High School, near Cincinnati, last May.  Yet according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, after being involved in a minor car accident, Pastor was sent to a federal detention facility for deportation after police discovered he was undocumented.  Pastor’s high school principal Chuck LaFata called him “a very good kid academically and a good soccer player…There was never a problem with discipline.”  Andy Callahan, a teacher at the high school, said, “Truly, he is an upstanding person of great moral character.  The whole family is wonderful.  It’s like another teacher just said to me, ‘Bernard is one of the good kids.’” 

Since Pastor’s arrest, dozens of his high school classmates, along with Rep. Steve Driehaus and Senator Sherrod Brown, have rallied to his defense.  As Daniel Wicks, a soccer teammate told the Enquirer, “He’s as Reading as any one of us.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “In what distorted reading of American history does it make sense to deport Bernard Pastor, or avoid a vote that would allow young people just like him to contribute to the nation they call home?  Bernard’s story is a compelling reminder of what’s at stake with the DREAM Act and the larger immigration debate.  While some Republicans have the audacity to call advancing the DREAM Act a ‘political’ move and offer half-baked excuses for standing in the way of these young people achieving their dreams, Bernard and thousands like him wait for these Senators and Congressmen to do the right thing.  Not only for these young people, but for the country—let these young immigrants become full Americans, so they can continue to give back to the only country they know as home.”

As Bernard’s story was being reported in the local press, Senate Republicans were busy trying out their talking points and excuses for potentially opposing the bill.  Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who says he supports immigration reform, called the vote on DREAM a “game” that is “more designed to play politics than…to try to solve the problem.”  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), through his spokesperson, said that DREAM was irrelevant to the American people, stating, “It’s like the election didn’t happen.”  And Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said that Democrats were bringing forth DREAM due to “some promises to some political constituencies…in order to appeal to certain segments of the Hispanic community” and implied that there wouldn’t be enough time to vote on the legislation during the lame duck session of Congress.    

Sharry continued by noting, “What the Republicans lack in shame, they are making up for in message consistency when it comes to excuses for not voting for DREAM.  The Republicans clearly do not want to take a vote on DREAM and would rather point fingers than fix a glaring problem with a sensible and popular solution.  Let Cornyn, Kyl, and McConnell tell Bernard Pastor and the community of classmates and supporters who have rallied to his side that this is merely a ‘political’ vote and ‘irrelevant’ to the American people.  This is no time for temerity or excuses – the Senate knows this issue, has voted on this issue in the past, and can do something immediately to ensure that Bernard can fulfill his ambitions and live up to his potential as a future bedrock of his community.” 

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.