Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-09) -- a member of the House immigration whip team -- on Thursday called for the immediate passage of the DREAM Act before the adjournment of the 111th U.S. Congress. Below are excerpts of Congresswoman's Lee statement that was read during a rally held by local leaders at Oakland City Hall in support of the DREAM Act:
"Today, I join Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, Mayor-elect Jean Quan, the Alameda Labor Council, and Oakland labor leaders and faith leaders in calling for the immediate passage of the DREAM Act before the end of the 111th U.S. Congress. I would be remiss if I did not admit that we are deeply disappointed that we did not bring home comprehensive immigration reform during these last two years -- which we all know is so desperately needed.
"However, over these upcoming weeks, we have the real and present opportunity to bring 825,000 children and young people out of the shadows by passing and signing into law the long awaited DREAM Act. This legislation would allow young adults to legalize their immigration status if they were brought to the U.S. before their 16th birthday, show good moral character, and attend college or serve in the military. And I believe it represents the best of American values. The idea that if you work hard and serve your country, then the only limit to what you make of yourself is the limit of your imagination.
"And for the thousands of undocumented children currently in U.S. elementary and high schools, America is indeed their country. For many, English is the only language they speak; and the U.S. is the only home they know.
"Although immigration reform has unfortunately become a heated partisan issue, I do not believe that any one of us -- left or right; black, white, Latino, or Asian -- believes it is the mark of a fair and just country to punish children for the actions of their parents. To subject kids to a lifetime of limited opportunities for an immigration status they did not choose and cannot control is both unjust and grossly unfair.
"But let us be clear. The DREAM Act is not only the right thing to do for these children; it is the smart thing to do for the future of our country. Military leaders such as Colin Powell support the DREAM Act because it would help the American armed forces remain strong, vibrant, and reflective of the country it serves.
"Moreover, passage of the DREAM Act would strengthen our economy as we work to recover and rebuild from the worst recession in our lifetimes. The addition of young, educated, multicultural, and multilingual graduates into the U.S. workforce would not only shore up tax revenues, it would strengthen our position in the world marketplace and help us remain globally competitive as we move further into the 21st century.
"In fact, a recent study by UCLA found that the DREAM Act would generate as much as $3.6 trillion for the economy over the next four decades. It would allow us to pull from American students who are already here -- and in whom we have already invested through their primary and secondary schooling -- thus reducing the need for recruiting foreign workers and giving taxpayers the biggest bang for their buck.
"So I am proud to join you in supporting this important and long overdue legislation. I thank you for your continued support, and I count on your continued advocacy over these critical coming days. On my end -- in my personal capacity and as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus -- I will continue to work with the House leadership, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus to try to muster the votes to finally pass the DREAM Act and see it become the law of the land. The enactment of this law is morally right, just, and it is in our national interest."