by Félix Pérez
DREAMers and their families took a giant step forward minutes ago when the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly, 68-32, to pass a historic bill that will modernize the nation’s broken immigration system.
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Celebrating along with DREAMers are educators such as Angie Sullivan, an elementary school teacher in Las Vegas. “In a city which has more English Language Learners than any other place except for Los Angeles, Las Vegas teachers have many stories about students and their life journey.
“DREAMers are a part of America. DREAMers are my students. I dream with them for social justice and progress toward a comprehensive immigration reform that creates a path for our students to remain in their country and continue contributing to the diversity that is our American community.”
The bill, the Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744), paves the way for millions of young aspiring Americans to become citizens. DREAMers would be put on a five-year path to legal permanent residency. To qualify, they must meet certain requirements, including:
- Arriving in the United States before December 31, 2011
- Entering the United States before the age of 16 and
- Either having graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a G.E.D., and completed two years of higher education, or
- Serving four years in the military
Educators have waged a decades-long battle to ensure the young people who’ve lived here since they were children can finally become citizens.
Retired teacher Krista Jensen, from Redmond, Washington, said:
As advisor to the Washington DREAM Act Coalition, I work with over 400 DREAMers. They defy their circumstances and economic status daily as they achieve a first-class education. Work ethic, emotional maturity and resilience combine to make DREAMers some of the strongest students I have ever had the pleasure to work with. I have watched as our DREAMers plan and execute amazing community projects while maintaining high GPAs and paying for their college expenses.
The bill now moves to the House, where chances of success are anything but certain. But for today at least, DREAMers and educators are celebrating the Senate vote, the first significant immigration system update since 1986.
Arizona math teacher and National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said, “We have witnessed for far too long the impact that the current broken immigration system has had on our students, their families, and communities. We know that providing students, including DREAMers, every opportunity to succeed is part of the fabric of our schools and communities. The Senate immigration reform bill upholds these principles to do right by children so they can achieve their full potential.”