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Phoenix DREAM Activist Recognized on Capitol Hill

Angelica Hernandez being recognized by U.S. Senator from Illinois Dick Durbin
Angelica Hernandez being recognized by U.S. Senator from Illinois Dick Durbin

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held its first DREAM Act hearing since the legislation was first proposed a decade ago.
 
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat, announced the hearing last week. Durbin was looking to convince Senate Republicans to support the proposed legislation, which would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came into the country as children. 
Durbin used Arizona State University graduate Angelica Hernandez, an undocumented immigrant, as an example of why the DREAM Act should be passed.

Hernandez was invited by Durbin to the hearing to be recognized as an outstanding DREAMer. She graduated from ASU's mechanical engineering school in May as valedictorian with a 4.5 GPA.

"Angelica Hernandez...[was] brought here from Mexico when she was 9 years old," Durbin noted as Hernandez stood. "In high school she served in the Junior ROTC and was president of the National Honors Society."

Hernandez was accompanied by other Arizona students to show support for the legislation, and to also be part of a historic moment for immigrant rights. Hernandez told Fox 10 News she was "excited to be recognized by Senator Durbin."

In spite of the hearing, Republicans didn't show any support for the proposal. They claim, erroneously, that the measure might encourage more illegal immigration.


Texas Senator John Cornyn, committee member, voted for the DREAM Act in 2003 but now has become critical of it, because he feels that it does not address the larger issue of America's broken immigration system.

"It's a Band-Aid, and maybe worse," insisted Cornyn during the hearing. "It will provide an incentive for future illegal immigration." 

Reyna Montoya, an ASU student who was at the hearing, said Cornyn's challenge to the DREAM act was significant since he was not moved by Hernandez's story or Ola Kaso's story, an undocumented student who also spoke at the hearing.

"I think it was essential for him to be there," said Montoya, "because he brought up concerns he had about the DREAM Act, [which at least opens] it up for discussion."

Kaso, an 18-year-old college student, testified on behalf of the DREAM Act and shared her hardships as an undocumented student.

Other top Obama officials such as former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, now Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, were present to defend the legislation,

The DREAM Act passed last December in the then Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. But it was blocked by threat of Republican filibuster in the Senate. 

President Obama is a supporter of the DREAM Act, and just recently U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has called for prosecutorial discretion by ICE agents handling the cases of DREAM Act candidates.

Undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. since they were children and are in school might not get deported, according to an internal memo authored by ICE director John Morton. Still, this new policy doesn't establish a legal status for DREAMers.

Republicans claim the Obama Administration is using proposed DREAM Act legislation as a political ploy to garner Hispanic support for Obama's 2012 reelection campaign.

DREAM Act students offer the same criticism, but they still believe Obama is sincere in his attempt to pass the legislation.

"I'm really hopeful that it will pass," Montoya declared. "It's important that we keep hope, because there are so many people who would benefit from [the DREAM Act]."

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