Neal Morton | The Monitor
July 23, 2011
A renewed push for a failed immigration bill has drawn local support, though advocates admit it has little chance to pass congressional hurdles before 2012.
Late last month, a Senate subcommittee held Congress’ first-ever hearing on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act, which would grant a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
“These children came to the United States with their parents through no fault of their own, in a legal and political situation they knew nothing about,” said Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes. “Our country is much better off by being able to let those children get a college education and serve in the military and contribute to the prosperity of our country.”
The DREAM Act passed the House of Representatives but failed to get enough votes in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster in December, dying in the upper chamber as the University of Texas-Pan American held its fall commencement ceremony.
Opponents often criticized the legislation because it had not received a full hearing before any committee. And though Hinojosa did not expect the act to pass before the presidential election next year, he did hope the hearing last month helped garner more support.
“I don’t care if you had 50 hearings. It wouldn’t change (Republicans) minds,” he admitted.
But “we need to let people know what happens when you invest in young people to get a college education,” Hinojosa said. “These children of immigrant families are so loyal. They are so productive and are not afraid of … serving and learning in the country they grew up in.”
If passed, the DREAM Act would allow immigrants brought to the U.S. before their 16th birthday to finish either two years of higher education or military service before granting them six years to earn lawful, permanent residency.
The DREAM Act won backing from the Rio Grande Valley’s newly created Hispanic Tea Party, deviating from the more established Tea Party group’s stalwart opposition to the bill.
“The Anglo (Tea Party) doesn’t see the same perspective as Hispanics,” said founder Armando Vera, a McAllen pastor. “It was necessary to develop the Hispanic Tea Party to raise these voices (of) other Hispanics.
“We should defend the rights of these students who are innocent. Their parents brought them,” he added. “They love this nation and have contributed already.”
Like Hinojosa, Vera speculated the DREAM Act will see little success before 2012.
But in the meantime he committed his organization to helping immigrant youth who want to stay and study in the U.S.
“They’re brilliant,” Vera said. “We have seen some cases and offer them a lot of services, but they need more help, more support. The immigrant problem will continue.
“America needs to make an effort to help them because they have been considered unjustly,” he said. “They were brought by their parents, didn’t decide to come and live in this country. Now they want what everyone else does: A chance.”