Young New Yorkers who came here illegally as children say they will not give up on the DREAM Act, which would allow an estimated 2 million young people to get on a path to citizenship. Though the House passed a version of the bill earlier this week, the Senate tabled it Thursday morning in order to avoid a Republican filibuster.
The bill would allow young immigrants who came to the United States before they turned 16 the chance to become citizens after ten years, provided they spend at least two in college or the military and they pass background checks. Many young illegal immigrants are watching the bill's steps forward and back with great anxiety because of its potential to turn their lives around by allowing them to work legally.
Natalia Aristizabal of the Brooklyn group Make the Road New York said that all morning Thursday, the young people she works with were texting her from school to find out what happened. When she told them the vote was postponed, she said they replied, “But why!”
“I have to explain to them that this is actually a good thing,” she said, noting that this will allow her team of about 30 youth organizers to spend another week or more filling up the voicemails of the Senators they hope to bring over to their side.
City College freshman Olga Reyes** spends half of each day studying and the other half selling street food with her mom so they can pay tuition. She wants to become a lawyer and, on the bus on her way to class, she said the DREAM Act gives her hope she can achieve that. But whenever the bill stumbles, she says she wonders why she is working so hard, given she may never be granted legal status.
“When you get really, really tired and really depressed,” she said, “that's the first thing that comes to your head, 'I'm going to just give up on everything and forget about everything.'”
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid says he plans to bring the House version of the DREAM Act to the Senate floor before the lame duck session ends. Opponents of the bill say it will take jobs from American citizens and encourage illegal immigration.
**Olga Reyes is a member of Make the Road New York (MRNY).