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Immigrants’ DREAM to Face U.S. Senate Reality This Week

September 20, 2010

RALEIGH, N.C. - U.S. Senate Democrats will try this week to pass a bill offering an eventual path to citizenship for certain undocumented immigrants, the so-called DREAM Act.

In North Carolina, the futures of about 51,000 young people will be affected by the decision. Under the DREAM Act, undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children, who have lived here at least five years, could apply for permanent legal status by completing two years in college or in the U.S. military. The acronym stands for Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors. Democrats hope to pass the measure by attaching it to a defense authorization bill.

Immigration attorney Mo Goldman says it makes sense to allow these young adults to stay in the U.S. after investing in their elementary and high school educations.

"It's to benefit not only themselves but society in general, and allow an alien to become a taxpayer, a person who can possibly become a professional."

Critics of the DREAM Act say it amounts to a back-door amnesty program that could create an incentive for more families to cross the border illegally. Goldman says it's unfair to punish kids who had no say in their parents' actions, and whose only life is here in the U.S. He cites the case of a 19-year-old brought to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of three months.

"We're going to take this young man - who went to high school, graduated, wants to go to college, doesn't speak Spanish - and we're going to deport him to Mexico? Is that the right thing to do to somebody?"

Goldman adds that the military option should not be overlooked at a time when the U.S. is fighting two wars and depends on volunteer forces. He's encountered numerous young men and women in his practice who are enthusiastic about serving.

"They would join the military if it meant that they could become a resident and be able to pursue the dream of defending the United States."

The U.S. military supports the DREAM Act, and so does President Obama, although he sees it as only part of the solution to the bigger problem of illegal immigration. He says comprehensive immigration reform is still necessary.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC