President Obama has declared immigration policy reform a top priority. This could include a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. One piece of proposed legislation, the Dream Act, would pave the way to make his vision a reality. Read the Alibi’s in-depth coverage here.
If passed, the bill would allow undocumented citizens to remain in the United States if they arrived illegally with their parents at a young age. Immigrants would be granted conditional residency status if they crossed the border before the age of 16, lived in the United States for at least five years and received a high school diploma. About 700,000 undocumented students would qualify under these provisions.
An immigrant can become a permanent resident after graduating from a two-year college or serving two years in the military.
According to a recent New York Times article, the Obama administration has already been excluding these students from deportation. Opponents argue that all undocumented immigrants should be detained, regardless of their accomplishments. They say the Dream Act will reward criminal behavior and take educational opportunities away from American students.
The Alibi reached out to New Mexico’s congressmen to talk about their stances on the Dream Act.
Rep. Martin Heinrich, CD 1—Central New Mexico, including Albuquerque
Heinrich is a cosponsor of the Dream Act and says he is encouraging House leadership to support it. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to punish kids for their parents’ mistakes. If they [the kids] are willing to give back to the country, they are a real potential benefit for our country.”
The congressman said that now is the time to focus on immigration legislation and he feels positive about the Dream Act’s chances. “I’m optimistic. It has a broad coalition, from religious leaders and labor leaders to educators. It’s irresponsible for us not to move on immigration reform.”
Harry Teague CD 2—Southern New Mexico
We should have Rep. Teague’s comments up shortly.
Ben Ray Lujan, CD 3—Northern New Mexico, including Santa Fe
The congressman supports the Dream Act and describes our current immigration system as “broken” in an e-mail statement. He says he agrees comprehensive reform is needed on all levels. “As we move forward with reform—from improving border security to considering the needs of business—we should consider opening opportunities to pursue higher education for young people who have grown up in the United States.”
Sen. Tom Udall
Udall says on his website that the Senate should look at a comprehensive immigration reform package before the November elections. This should include the Dream Act, he says.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman
Bingaman is a cosponsor of the Dream Act and says it is unfair to penalize the children who are here illegally because of their parents’ actions. “Providing these young individuals with the ability to pursue a higher education would help make them a productive part of society,” he writes in an e-mail statement.