Standing before a row of undocumented Miami-Dade College students downtown this morning, Senate hopeful Kendrick Meek urged Congress to pass a long-debated bill that would give college graduates and military members a quick path to full citizenship. Democrats plan to attach the DREAM Act to a defense bill this week, but passage is far from certain given the poisonous climate on immigration issues.
"This is not amnesty, this is not a give-away," Meek said. "This is equity to make our country stronger."
The DREAM Act would offer a six-year path to citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants, most of whom were brought to the U.S. at a young age and have spent their whole lives living here.
Today, those students -- many of whom don't even realize they aren't full citizens until they try to apply for college enrollment -- are all but powerless to legally find work or higher ed in the only country they've ever lived in.
If the DREAM act passes, those who complete a college degree or serve two years in the military would have a quick path to citizenship.
At this morning's rally, held in MDC's open-air student center on NE Second Avenue, Meek and other speakers painted the bill as a common-sense change to immigration law caught up in rancorous politics.
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"It's hard not to support DREAM when you're direct witness every day to lost opportunity," said Dr. Rolando Montoya, the college's provost.
"By limiting these students, we're also limiting our nation from improving itself," added Maria Ortega, a student government leader.
The bad news is that immigration legislation of any kind could be extremely difficult to pass this year, with Republicans sure to shout "amnesty!" as soon as the bill appears. Congress could vote on the measure's inclusion in the defense bill as early as this week.