Thousands of undocumented youth and their families nationwide celebrated the House of Representatives’ passage of the DREAM Act by a vote of 216 to 198 on Wednesday, December 8.
One of those students was Francisco Curiel, 18, who was born in Mexico. The undocumented senior, who attends Pan American International High School in Elmhurst, came to the U.S. when he was 15 and would benefit from the passing of the proposed law.
According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), nationally 825,000 undocumented students like Curiel would be eligible to obtain permanent legal status through the DREAM Act -- 146,000 who are from New York.
“The DREAM Act is the opportunity to achieve one of my biggest dreams, which is to be the first in my family to graduate from college and be a role model for my little sister,” said Curiel, a Youth Power Project member of Make the Road New York (MRNY), a nonprofit immigrants group in Jackson Heights.
The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) has been put aside by the Senate, but immigrant advocates are hoping they would try to take a vote again soon. Backers see this as a last chance to pass the legislation, which was first introduced almost 10 years ago, before outgoing Senate Democrats leave their seats in January.
“We are one critical step closer to bringing the American Dream within reach for thousands of America’s children who are our neighbors,” said U.S. Representative Gary Ackerman (D-Queens/L.I.). “I urge my colleagues in the Senate to follow suit and send this bill to President Obama.”
The measure would enable undocumented youth, who have been in the United States for at least five consecutive years, to earn permanent legal status by obtaining a college degree or doing two years of military service. The legislation would benefit young people who have been living in the country since they were 15 years or less and between 12 to 35 years old at the time of application. They would also have graduated from a secondary school in the United States, obtained a GED, or have been accepted to a university.
"Today, with 12,600 dues-paying members, MRNY is a unique amalgam of worker center, legal clinic, citizenship school, mutual aid society, policy shop, protest factory and church. Its four offices in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island are an egalitarian oasis for members, who gather there for conversation and classes..."