District of Columbia can become the first jurisdiction to recommend the federal implementation of the DREAM Act
by Annette Birch
Washington, D.C., is considering a resolution recommending Congress pass an act granting a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children under certain circumstances.
If approved by the city council, the resolution would be the first passed in favor of the DREAM Act by a local or state government.
Lizette Arias, who testified at the city council public hearing on Nov. 13, came to the United States from Bolivia when she was two months old and does still not have a residence permit.
“I lived a very different life than if I had been documented. As a child, there was always the danger of being deported and my parents did not want me to travel, and there was always the danger of being deported,” she said.
Arias graduated from college last year and is now interning part-time at DREAM project, Inc., a non-profit organization paying for immigrants to go to college.
“I like to think that I make a difference for people like me.” In September, she applied for deferred action, which, if granted, would give her a two-year work permit, but would not give her lawful status.
A good education is often not an option for illegal immigrants
Immigration Policy Center, a non-profit organization which provides research and analysis about immigrants and immigration in the United States, estimates that there are 1,711 foreign born persons under 30 years old in the District of Columbia, like Arias, would meet the general requirements for the DREAM Act. Of these 94 percent are of Latino origin, 2 percent of Asian origin, 2.7 percent of European origin and 1.3 percent comes from other regions.
Latin American Youth Center, a non-profit organization which helps Latino and African immigrant youths 11 to 24 years old, believes that the biggest problem for illegal immigrants is that they cannot access the resources available.
“They cannot go to college, get well paid jobs, take English classes or access community resources, if they do not have documentation,” said Ariseli Rosenburger, a spokeswoman for the Development Communication Manager at the Latin American Youth Centre.
Arias had to fight to get into a good college, while her sister who is two years younger and born in the United States got into her dream college without problems, got driver license and could travel abroad. “It was especially hard, when I was in high school and wanted to go to college as I did not qualify for in-state tuition, even though I got straight A’s, and the outer state and national colleges were too expensive,” she said.
DC Council resolution can get the ball rolling
Crispus Gordon, legislative assistant to the D.C Council Judiciary Committee, emphasized that this action is not the same one taken by Maryland, which passed its own version of the DREAM Act. “This is an official statement from D.C. Council asking Congress to pass the federal DREAM Act.” In order to get adopted the resolution needs to be adopted by a majority vote at the DC Council Judiciary Committee in Nov. 29 and by the Committee of the Whole at a meeting to be held between Dec. 4 and Dec. 18.
However, both Arias and Rosenburger believes that it would be a strong signal to Congress, if the resolution got adopted. “The D.C. Council resolution could get the ball rolling. Hearing people’s voices might influence things on a national level,” Rosenburger said.