As DC weighs DREAM Act, immigrant rights group loses vote in Longmont

Immigrant rights supporters lost a bid in Longmont last night to send a message to local residents and federal lawmakers in support of the DREAM Act. The Longmont City Council voted against a pro-DREAM Act resolution. The federal bill is scheduled for debate in Washington Wednesday or Thursday. The resolution lost on a 4 to 3 vote.

“We’re extremely disappointed,” Sonia Marquez of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition told the Colorado Independent. “We had over 50 people there talking about how the DREAM Act would affect the local community. People poured their hearts out. It was a hard hit.”

The DREAM Act began its life as a Republican proposal a decade ago but has been caught up in the increasingly heated politics surrounding illegal immigration. It grants citizenship to undocumented young people who have been raised in the United States provided they attend university and/or enroll in the military. The Act has been embraced by Defense leaders and is now endorsed by most Democrats.

Counties that have officially embraced the DREAM Act in Colorado include Boulder, Denver, Pueblo and Yuma.

“The vote was crucial for our communities,” Marquez said in a press release “because it [would] show whether Longmont is trying to do all it can to help the young people living here. These DREAMer youth are the highest achievers, who have only known the United States as a homeland. To deny them an opportunity to pursue their educations or to serve in the military is unjust and un-American, and the Longmont City Council has a chance tonight to add to the national consensus in support of the DREAM Act.”

Marquez said her group had three votes locked up but couldn’t sway member Alex Sammoury, who was on the fence but in the end decided the DREAM Act had gone through so many iterations over the years, it was unclear what the council would be supporting before federal lawmakers took action this week.

“I do wholeheartedly support that these kids need to have a way to become citizens,” Sammoury said, according to the Longmont Times Call. “It’s critical. In all aspects of their lives, they are Americans.”

Councilwoman Katie Witt was the most outspoken opponent of the resolution according to Marquez. Witt said taking a position on a federal issue would be inviting resolutions on all kinds of controversial federal issues, such as the Bush-era tax cuts and the embattled Arizona immigration laws.

Marquez said Witt seemed really “negative even hateful” given the setting and the emotion of the people, who came to speak at the meeting, including teachers and students.

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