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A Dose of Harsh Reality for DREAM Act

December 20, 2010

SALEM, Ore. - Oregon's two U.S. senators voted for the DREAM Act, but that wasn't enough to save it from a Republican filibuster over the weekend. There were 55 yes votes, but 60 were needed to pass the bill that would have allowed young people brought to the U.S. by undocumented immigrant parents to gain citizenship for enrolling in college or enlisting in the military.

Francisco Lopez, executive director of CAUSA, Oregon's immigrant rights coalition, says his group will now ask the state legislature to at least allow in-state tuition for students of immigrant parents living in Oregon.

"If you are an undocumented immigrant, if you want to go to college, you need to pay foreign student tuition - and that's thousands of dollars. If we change that to in-state tuition, they can pay tuition like everyone else."

Ten states now have tuition equality laws. The fate of the DREAM Act has put the future plans of more than 40,000 young Oregonians in limbo. Backers of the bill said it would create productive new taxpayers who have already been raised and educated in America; detractors called it an amnesty bill.

Abel Valladares, an organizer with the Latino workers' organization Pineros y Campesinos Unidos (PCUN) has been advocating for the DREAM Act for five years. He is disappointed that it failed on such a close vote, but says the issue has energized young Latinos.

"What I'm seeing in the community, especially in young leaders - they want to keep fighting, they want to keep building more momentum, to build these safe communities and environment in their life. And they're not giving up, I'm telling you."

The DREAM Act had passed in the House, where the votes from Oregon's representatives were split. Earl Blumenauer (D- 3rd District) and Peter DeFazio (D-4th District) voted for the bill, Kurt Schrader (D-5th District) and Greg Walden (R-2nd District) voted against it, and David Wu (D-1st District) did not vote.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR