by Félix Pérez
Members of Congress, nearing the end of a five-week recess, will have their hands full beginning next week as they face mounting public pressure to have an up or down vote on an immigration reform bill that includes a practical pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, their families and other individuals who are American in every way but one — on paper.
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Educators such as Scott Ellingson, of Hudson, Wisconsin, recounting the struggles of two of his DREAMer students, said Congress should be guided by what’s best for DREAMer students, their families and the nation.
“Immigration reform can free [my students] from the constant fear. . . Every Monday morning they join their classmates to pledge allegiance to the American flag. They have the same passions and interests as most American teenage males: Facebook, smart phones, girls, video games, sleep, and homework.”
Ellingson continued, “Unlike most American teens, they live with constant anxiety and fear of being deported at any moment and . . . being separated from their families, their classmates.”
Ellingson is not alone. Educators across the country — including the more than 8,000 that have signed Ed Votes’ immigration petition — are speaking out about the harmful effect the current immigration system has on students, their families and entire communities. Those 8,000 signatures were part of a delivery of more than 600,000 petition signatures delivered today to House Speaker John Boehner, urging him to schedule a vote on a comprehensive immigration bill.
Ellingson’s desire, and that of educators across the country and the majority of Americans, is for Congress to pass immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.
According to a recent poll by CBS News, 78 percent of adults nationwide favor “providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the U.S. if they met certain requirements including a waiting period, paying fines and back taxes, passing criminal background checks and learning English.” Tellingly, seven in ten conservatives are willing to accept a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants with conditions.
Las Vegas educator Angie Sullivan took advantage of the congressional recess to push her representative, Congressman Joe Heck, to support comprehensive immigration reform. She joined with some 80 parents, students, educators, community and religious leaders last Saturday at a rally to urge that Heck support reform that keeps families together.
“We really need Boehner to bring a bill to a vote,” said Sullivan. “To ask my students to choose between themselves and their parents is unimaginable,” she said, in response to legislation being drafted in the House that would offer eventual citizenship status to certain DREAMers but not their family members.
Sullivan said “the time is now” for Congress to act. “Most people don’t know how much of a burden it is for DREAMers. They live their lives in the shadows, afraid that when they come home someone they love will have been taken away from them.”
DREAMers and other immigration reform supporters this August organized more than 1,200 activities around the country to keep pressure on Republicans and House leaders to move reform with a path to citizenship. From town halls to community forums and prayer vigils to pilgrimages, reform supporters were out in full force. Education, labor and business groups worked alongside members and leaders of various religious denominations and immigrant and civil rights organizations.