DENVER — The House passed the DREAM Act last week, but the real fight is just beginning as the bill enters into the filibuster-friendly Senate.
With the final Senate vote possibly just a few days away, proponents of the legislation around the nation -– including two outspoken Colorado congressmen — are coming out the gate with fists flying in what may be their last hope of seeing this hard-fought and seemingly endless piece of legislation passed into law before the GOP comes marching into the halls of Congress in January.
On Thursday, in front of Sen. Michael Bennet’s office in Denver, a group of Colorado immigrant rights activists -including students, educators, religious leaders and elected officials — all gathered together to thank Bennet and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis for their dedication and to call on the opponents of the DREAM Act in the Senate to step aside and let the bill pass before Christmas.
Students at the rally spoke openly about their experiences and their frustrations about pursuing education in this country.
“We are so close! In the past nine past years, we have seen two presidents, many congressional elections, and thousands of dreams put on hold. The time for inaction is over. Party and politics must be put aside in order for Congress to do the right thing,” said Diego, the son of immigrants who could find employment as an engineer if the DREAM Act were to pass. He asked to only be identified by his first name.
Diego currently works in a fast-food restaurant because his engineering degree from the University of Denver does him no good without legal documents under the current law.
The DREAM Act, which was first introduced to Congress in 2001, would set up a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who 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 military service, following which they could be eligible for naturalization.
The rally also featured the Colorado Democratic Party’s most notable newcomer: Muhammad Ali Hasan.
“My parents were held back in Pakistan and Afghanistan and that’s why they came here. Their dreams wouldn’t have happened in Pakistan,” said Hasan. “How could we turn these kids down?
These kids are hungry and they want to keep the American Dream going. These are the guys that Benjamin Franklin would want to sit down to dinner and have a good time with.”
Hasan told the Colorado Independent that the GOP’s stance on immigrant issues, such as the DREAM Act, was one of the major motivating factors in joining the Democratic Party.
At the rally, Denver City Council member Paul Lopez implored senators to pass the DREAM Act.
“This is an opportunity to support justice and to be on the right side of history,” said Lopez. “This is an opportunity to be on the right side of history and not block the doors to letting these kids into schools.”