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Amy Traub

The New York City Council Heeds the DREAMers, Congress Turns a Deaf Ear

When the New York City Council Committees on Immigration and Higher Education scheduled their joint hearing on the DREAM Act for this morning, they didn’t know what the larger political context would be. The Council is considering a resolution (pdf)
calling on Congress to pass – and President Obama to sign – the DREAM Act, a bill allowing unauthorized immigrant students who migrated to the U.S. as children to regularize their status, further their education, get better jobs, and, as a result, contribute more to the nation where they are making their lives. What Councilmembers didn’t realize when they scheduled the hearing was that congressional Republicans would block an effort to attach the DREAM Act to the defense authorization bill the very day before the Council met.

The sense of disappointment and frustration at Congress’ refusal to act were palpable in the overflowing committee room, but there was also a sense of determination to continue fighting for the bill’s passage in the form of a stand-alone law. It’s that same determination that fuels the incredible academic careers of undocumented students struggling against the odds to get an education and make lives for themselves in the country where they grew up. At the hearing, a number of students spoke movingly about what the legislation would mean for them and their peers. They received a sympathetic ear from the City Council: New York recognizes that it is a city built and powered by immigrants. Many members of the Council were themselves born abroad or are the children of immigrants. If only the U.S. Senate were as supportive.

To complement the powerful personal stories, I had the opportunity to testify about the bill’s broader impact. Drawing on a cogent issue brief by DMI’s Cristina Jimenez I was pleased to offer evidence that the DREAM Act not only benefits undocumented students but the American middle class as well. That testimony is available here.

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Posted at 4:27 PM, Sep 22, 2010 in Immigration
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