NLLSA’s Policy Initiative Director, Ernie Dominguez, attended today’s hearing on the DREAM Act before Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security. Below is his recap of the hearing:
This morning the United States Senate Subcommittee on Immigration held a hearing to discuss the worth of the legislation that has been widely come to be known as the DREAM Act. Many young, anxious, and defiant faces were present at the day’s hearing. The line to enter the Senate hearing room in the Hart Senate office building was hundreds long. As I walked by the line, trying to process the momentous occasion, I looked into the eyes of some of the students and observed hope. While for a decade the United States legislature has avoided to act to repair what politicians on both sides of the aisle describe as a broken immigration system, these young students have embraced courage and hope as the defining characteristics of their young student movement. I have seen documentaries of the civil rights movements, and I have heard the stories of the progressive lions of the ’60s, but it was indeed inspiring to witness the contemporary civil rights movement and it had much more of an impact on me to see that this movement has a Latino accent.
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), who was assigned to chair the hearing as the legislation’s chief proponent, started the proceedings by welcoming the individuals who were to participate on the panels. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley were all present to represent the support the current executive administration has for the passage of the DREAM Act. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) were in attendance to question the appropriateness of the bill and had some probing questions for Secretary Napolitano about internal decisions made regarding the enforcement of immigration laws against undocumented students.
Secretary Duncan provided some striking statistics about the importance of integrating the undocumented student class into the American workforce. One of his most persuasive stats is that according to a study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, were the DREAM Act to be passed, the beneficiaries of the DREAM Act would generate 1.4-3.3 trillion dollars to US GDP. Undersecretary Stanley reported to the committee the Department of Defense’s strong support for the passage of the DREAM Act and highlighted the willingness some undocumented students have exhibited about their desire to fight for the only country they have ever known.
Also in attendance was Senator Al Franken (D-MN). Senator Franken had some important questions for an undocumented student who was on the second and final panel of witnesses for the day. That undocumented student was Ola Kaso, an honor student from the state of Michigan who earned a 4.4 GPA in high school and is attending the University of Michigan and participating in the honors program. Ola represented all the DREAM Act students who were in attendance. The students represented a wide range of geographic locations, from Arizona to New Jersey, Florida to California. The hearts and minds of many undocumented youth were present at today’s Senate hearing.
It was clear from the testimonies provided by the members of the President’s Cabinet and the other individuals who participated today, that passage of the DREAM Act is not only critical for the undocumented students who would benefit from its enactment, but also to the United States of America which needs to recognize that without the talent, drive, persistence, and love displayed by the DREAMers in attendance this country is a lesser place.
Ernie Dominguez is a rising second-year student at the University of Maryland School of Law and serves as NLLSA’s Policy Initiative Director.