DENVER – Undocumented Colorado youths and immigration reform activists, frustrated by the lack of action on comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, gathered across the river from Sen. Michael Bennet’s office in Confluence Park Thursday, urging Bennet and Sen. Mark Udall to introduce the DREAM Act as a standalone bill before October.
“I stand here today because I’m fed up with the current immigration system and I’m joining in the despair and frustration of having all this knowledge and not being able to use it,” said Diego, an undocumented immigrant who gave only his first name.
Diego said that he graduated with a BA in electrical engineering from the University of Denver , but since he does not have documentation, he currently works at a fast food restaurant. “We are calling on our legislators to take immediate action on passing the DREAM Act as a standalone bill. Now!”
The DREAM Act, which was first introduced to Congress in 2001, would set up a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that arrived in the country as minors — provided that they have no criminal record and have graduated high school. If the bill passes, potential beneficiaries would receive conditional status in the country while completing a two-year college degree or two years of military service, following which they could be eligible for naturalization.
At the rally, the community liaison for Bennet, Eva Serenil, told the audience that the xenator is a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, referencing a letter that he sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging him to make comprehensive immigration reform a legislative priority.
“In his letter Sen. Bennet stated that it is imperative that we have a workable immigration system that balances the needs of our law enforcement, city and state government and our economy as a whole,” said Serenil. “Senator Bennet stated the Dream Act must be part of comprehensive immigration reform.”
Serenil told the Colorado Independent that the senator does not have a formalized position on the DREAM Act as a standalone bill. “I was not aware of the calls for a standalone bill before I got here.”
House comprehensive immigration reform leader Congressman Jared Polis, D-Boulder, has expressed views similar to Bennet’s.
“I strongly support the Dream Act, and if it can pass alone it’s certainly a good thing, but in no way, shape or form does it fix our broken immigration system,” Polis has said.
Noticeably absent at the rally was a response from Udall, which was lamented by the activists after their repeated attempts to contact Colorado’s other Democratic senator.
Following the speeches, the DREAM Act activists marched through the streets of Denver and down the 16th Street Mall while carrying signs, chanting and distributing literature about the DREAM Act (see video).