Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moved on Dec. 6 to end discussion on a controversial bill that would grant citizenship to many children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents – a move that allows the legislation to be voted on as early as this week.
Although the DREAM Act has incited fierce cultural debate, many leaders within Catholic community have given it their support. Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Gomez advocated the act's passage in a Dec. 2 letter to the U.S. Congress. He described the bill as “a practical, fair, and compassionate solution for thousands of young persons” who had not voluntarily broken the law.
The act's full title is the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. It would allow young people who entered the United States before the age of 16 to apply for legal permanent residence and eventual citizenship, as long as they completed two years of higher education or military service.
The legislation's main support in Congress comes from Democrats, many of whom consider it an effective and fair solution to a problem that young people did not bring on themselves. However, some Republicans have warned that the bill would create more incentive for others to enter the country illegally in the future.
An Senate vote could happen as early as Wednesday morning, though Senate Republicans have a chance to filibuster the measure if they garner 60 votes. The bill is expected to pass through the House with less difficulty.
On Dec. 6, the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders urged its members to contact their congressional representatives to vote for passage of the DREAM Act.
“We are making this call-to-action in hopes of helping thousands of young people realize the American dream,” said Robert Aguirre, group president.
Archbishop Gómez, who serves as the group’s Episcopal Moderator, said that our “elected officials can provide a remedy for a very vulnerable group of immigrants – young persons who entered the United States with their parents years ago.”
“Their futures are limited because of their undocumented status, yet they have so much to give to our communities and nation."
``The success stories of earlier generations of child immigrants, like the Cuban children of the 1960s, Operation Pedro Pan, have amply demonstrated this.''
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami also lent his support to the measure Dec. 1, telling a meeting of students and professors at St. Thomas University that the act would have “ life-changing impact on the students who qualify, and not only for the qualifying students, but all American society would benefit,” according to the Miami Herald.
The Miami archbishop cited Operation Pedro Pan, a 1960s program that allowed Cuban children to legally settle in the U.S., as an example of the positive impact the law could have.