Washington, D.C. (December 8, 2010) – U.S. Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15), chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, along with other CAPAC executive board members, applauded Wednesdays passage of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a bill they said would provide for conditional permanent resident status for undocumented students who arrived at in this country at a young age.
“As chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I fought hard for this bill because Asian American and Pacific Islanders have a major stake in the immigration debate with over 1.5 million Asian undocumented immigrants in the U.S.,” said Rep. Honda. “That’s 12 percent of all undocumented immigrants, a demographically disproportionate number given that AAPIs comprise 4.4 percent of American society.
Honda said that when it came to the DREAM Act, the stake was even more stark in his home state of California, where over 40 percent of DREAM Act beneficiaries are Asian. Now that the DREAM Act passed, he said 65,000 of the best-behaving students graduating high school every year – honor roll students, star athletes, talented artists and aspiring teachers – will be able to enter college or the military, gain upward mobility and contribute $3.6 trillion in taxes over the next 40 years.
U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawai’i) said the DREAM Act will help children who grow up in this country and know no other homeland, who graduate high school here, obey the law, and seek to contribute to our society, deserve the opportunity to join the military, go to college, start a career, and pursue the American dream.
“It is cruel to punish them for something they had no control over,” said Akaka.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association supported the Act and said critics of the bill have inaccurately described the bill an “amnesty” with exaggerated claims that it would provide safe harbor to criminals. The AILA said the Act has strict eligibility requirements and provides relief to a narrow population of talented young people.
The latest version included amendments filed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) passed late Tuesday night and makes the criteria for applicants even tougher.
The new bill keeps in place an existing ban on illegal immigrants receiving in-state college tuition. It also lowers the age of eligibility by 5 years, excluding anyone over 29 from applying for the conditional non-immigrant status.
The bill is tougher in that it would restrict eligibility for those who commit certain misdemeanor crimes and require them to demonstrate good moral character during their entire time in the United States. Those who receive the conditional non-immigrant status under the DREAM Act also would be ineligible for Medicaid, food stamps and other government-funded benefits.
Moreover, no applicant could obtain permanent legal status for at least 10 years.
Eni Faleomavaega the U.S. Congressman representing American Samoa, and CAPAC vice chair, said the Dream Act is an important piece of legislation that will give many young people an opportunity to further pursue their education given their adverse circumstances.
“Through no fault of their own, we must not penalize the children of those who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents at such a young age,” said Faleomavaega. “It is only fair that we give them an opportunity which I believe will not only improve our U.S. workforce but will be a great help to our U.S. military.”
Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo, CAPAC secretary, said the DREAM Act represents an opportunity to address an important issue to the APIA community.
“I have heard from many of my constituents who support this bill, and along with the leaders of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, I urge the Senate to move quickly to pass this legislation,” said Bordallo.
Congressman Xavier Becerra (CA-31), a CAPAC executive board member, said the Dream Act is within reach of becoming reality in part because both Democrats and Republicans support the legislation as a sensible solution that embodies fundamental American values.
“This bill pulls from the shadows children who grew up pledging allegiance to our flag, speaking our language and – despite difficult circumstances – graduating from our high schools,” said Becerra. “Pay your fees and taxes, put on the uniform to serve our country or excel so that you are college bound.
“That is the way to get on the right path as an immigrant,” he added. “The DREAM Act is not only the right thing to do for some of the best and brightest children caught in a broken immigration system, it is a smart thing to do for our country and our future.”
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32), CAPAC executive board member, said there are 1.5 million undocumented immigrants of Asian descent in the United States, many of whom are dedicated hard-working students just trying to reach their dreams.
“Students like David Cho, Drum Major for the UCLA Marching band who wants to join the Air Force, and serve his country, when this bill becomes law,” Chu said. “As a member of the Immigration Subcommittee, I have been fighting for months to bring this bill to the House Floor – and now we have done it!
“It is for David, and the thousands like him, that I was proud to vote in favor of the DREAM Act. I strongly urge my Senate colleagues to act quickly to make David’s dream a reality.”
Congressman Al Green (TX-9), CAPAC executive board member, said this is the right time to make the Dream Act a reality, a bill he said would give students in this country the opportunity to contribute their full talents to America’s future.
“Allowing these productive young people, with good moral character, to serve in the military or continue their education is an investment in the American Dream.” Said Green. “By helping these students realize their full potential, America as a whole will realize its full potential. The time is right to seize the DREAM!”
Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (HI-2), CAPAC executive board member, said this nation was founded on the powerful ideals of freedom and tolerance, values that still elude other nations to this day, and a main reason why the American Dream endures in the minds of so many around the world.
“As an immigrant to this country myself, I know the power of that dream,” said Hirono. “My vote today is in support of the high-achieving and patriotic children who already call this country home.”
Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA-5), CAPAC executive board member, said we must do all that we can to expand both educational and employment opportunities for children in America. Enactment of the DREAM Act will strengthen our economy and improve our position in the global marketplace. It will also allow undocumented, immigrant students who have been living in the U.S. an opportunity to give back to the country that has given so much to them.”
Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-3), CAPAC executive board member, said the Dream Act would allow non-resident students in higher education or the military to not only contribute to our economy and our nation’s defense, “but also reduce the prospects of crime, welfare and other problems and costs associated with lack of education or work skills.”