September 18, 2010

By Gary Pudup

Carlos was brought to the United States from Mexico when he was 11 years old. He quickly overcame the challenge of adjusting to a new country, learning English and flourishing in school.

He graduated from a local high school in June, earning an Advanced Regents Diploma and several merit-based scholarships. Carlos, 18, plans to study criminal justice and hopes to become a police officer. He wants serve the community, but his future is uncertain.

Carlos, an undocumented immigrant, is trapped in a messy bureaucratic battle to stay in the only country he considers home. (Carlos is a pseudonym. The young man wished to conceal his identity out of fear that immigration authorities will target his friends and family.)

He is among an estimated 146,000 young people in New York state whose futures are imperiled because, through no fault of their own, they were brought to the United States as children. Nationally, about 1 million young people are in jeopardy of being deported to countries of which they have little or no memory.

Congress can end this injustice and strengthen our nation by passing the Dream Act, bipartisan legislation that would allow certain immigrant students to apply for temporary residency while they attend college or serve in the military.

To qualify for temporary residency, students must have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, moved to the country before their 16th birthday and be younger than 35. They must demonstrate good character and graduate from high school.

As temporary residents, students will have up to six years to pursue their studies. Students will receive permanent residency if, after six years, they have maintained good moral character and completed a two-year college requirement or served two years in the military.

The Dream Act will lift tens of thousands of blameless young people from the shadows. It will allow them to become successful and contribute to our society.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pledged to hold a vote on the Dream Act next week.

In the House, Rep. Dan Maffei is among the bill’s 128 co-sponsors. Area residents should contact Rep. Louise Slaughter and urge her to support this bill.

America prides itself as a place that rewards hard work and good character. The Dream Act epitomizes this sentiment.

Pudup is director of the Genesee Valley Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

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