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Not Just for Dreamers; Immigration Reform Talks Suggest Wider Path

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DREAM Act supporters.

CREDIT: Flickr/Antonio Villaraigosa

More than 154,000 undocumented immigrants have been approved out of the more than 400,000 cases filed for deferred action over the last five months but DREAMers didn't slow down the fight for more comprehensive immigration reform, one that includes a federal version of the DREAM Act.

And it looks as though they may get their pay day for progressive change soon if talk on Capitol Hill isn't cheap.

“Deferred action is not a promise, it’s not long term,” Natalie Casal, a core leader with the Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER) chapter in Miami, Fla. said of the two-year deportation reprieve granted by the Obama administration. Deferred action is not a path to citizenship and only applies to undocumented youth who came to the United States before their 16th birthday, were under 30 years of age before the directive was announced, and are in school or served in the military.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who first introduced the DREAM Act 12 years ago, said at a press conference hosted by a bi-partisan group of Senators said that  “the DREAM Act will be an integral part” of the comprehensive immigration bill they hope to pass.

“A lot of tears were shed when we were unable to pass the DREAM Act,” he said. “I met with young people after the bill failed and I promised them that we’re not giving up on them. They’ve shown great courage and the fact that last year both presidential candidates were asked where they stood on the DREAM Act is proof of how far we’ve come."

Out of the 4.4 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, only 1.7 million are eligible for deferred action, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Some of the "principles" the bipartisan league of senators said would frame immigration legislation were: strengthened border security, a path for citizenship created for the millions already in the states, an emphasis on holding employers responsible for proving the legal status of their employees, and a ensuring the flow of immigration is in step with the needs of our economic growth.

Deferred action provided a stepping stone toward a pathway to progress, but not a clear path to citizenship for the young people in this country who for all intents and purposes—except for status papers—are American. The Department of Homeland Security's directive was criticized as a stop-gap solution for a more complex problem, an issue Obama himself acknowledged when he announced the policy last year in June.

“It does seem like the ‘Band-Aid,’” Casal said. “We have a broken immigration system, but for SWER the overall issue is that we are still going to fight the immigration issue for everyone. Our ultimate goal is to help our families benefit as well.”

Melissa Adan is a reporter for Campus Progress.

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