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Despite Defeat, Catholic Official Sees Progress on DREAM Act
Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Tuesday, September 28, 2010
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WASHINGTON (CNS)—Although the U.S. Senate failed to pass legislation that would have helped children of undocumented immigrants work toward legal status and get a college education, an official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed confidence Sept. 24 that the idea "is gaining more support on the merits."

"These issues take some time to pass, even if the American public is ahead of their elected officials," said Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy and public affairs for the USCCB Office of Migration and Refugee Services. He was commenting on the Senate's 56-43 vote Sept. 21 against a defense authorization bill that included the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act as an amendment.

The measure would have regularized the legal status of those who came to the United States before age 16, lived here at least five years, graduated from a U.S. high school and were pursuing higher education or military service.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, approximately 114,000 young people who have already obtained at least an associate's degree would be immediately eligible for conditional lawful permanent resident status under the legislation. Another 612,000 high school graduates could be eligible if they graduated from college or completed two years of military service.

The DREAM Act, introduced in Congress in various forms since 2003, has been supported by Catholic leaders and those in Catholic higher education.

In a teleconference shortly before the vote, Georgetown University President John J. DiGioia said the young undocumented immigrants who would have been affected by the DREAM Act have "played by our rules" and "succeeded by our rules."

"By everything that we stand for as a people, they should have the opportunity to continue their education in this country," he said.

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles, a longtime supporter of the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform, said in his blog that he has met with "enthusiastic young men and women who graduate from a college or university here in Los Angeles, but because they lack legal papers, they cannot find employment. The same is true of these young people who join a branch of the military. That makes no sense whatsoever."

"I met recently a young man who just graduated from a major university in Los Angeles with his degree in engineering," the cardinal said. "He is so anxious to put his education and skills at the service of our country and our community, but lacks legal residency papers. What a waste of the gifts and talents of these young people all across the country."

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the only Hispanic member of the Senate, said shortly before the vote that he would introduce soon "legislation, not a framework, but legislation in the U.S. Senate, outlining comprehensive immigration reform to provide "a pathway toward earned legalization for those who are in the shadows who will be able to come into the full light and observe the dignity that they deserve with what they are helping America to achieve."

"I believe that the economy is not a reason to oppose immigration reform, but a reason to have immigration reform," he added. "I believe in the dignity of each and every individual and the concept of family values that we hear so often in the senate needs to be preserved. We cannot see families ripped apart."

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