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Public Statements

Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, like many of my colleagues, before I begin my remarks on the subject that brings me to the floor today, which is the DREAM Act, I wish to take a moment to reflect on the brutal, unconscionable attacks that occurred on our diplomatic posts in Libya and Egypt. Like many of my colleagues, I am outraged and saddened by the brutal murder of four courageous Americans in a cowardly, unconscionable attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Their families are in the thoughts and prayers of my family as they are for many others of my colleagues.

These great diplomats were patriots and professionals, putting their lives on the line to advance American ideals and interests. Their vital work is done daily by countless Americans, diplomats abroad who serve in every corner of the world.

In my own visit to Libya last year with a number of my colleagues, including Senator McCain and Senator Graham, I saw the vital work and the accomplishments of such brave Americans on the ground as well as the great peril and severe danger they constantly face. I also saw their sense of satisfaction and patriotism in the work they are doing. I add my voice to that of my colleagues asking for more support for security, enhanced safeguards, and protection for our diplomats in these kinds of situations. They go about their work with understated perseverance and determination as well as constant courage in the face of often chaotic and unpredictable dangers.

The cowardly attacks on these patriots should not deter the people of Libya from moving forward. Neither should it deter us from working together with others abroad who have a common interest in tolerance, freedom of speech, and democracy.

I commend President Obama and Secretary Clinton for their immediate response to this situation, their words of encouragement. I wish Godspeed to the Marine Corps Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team en route to Libya.

The diplomats who were killed in this tragic and brutal action embodied American values and the highest traditions, not only of the professionals among our career diplomats, but all who serve and sacrifice for this country in uniform in very similar situations of danger--the marines who guard our embassies as well as the other marines and troops who are fighting on foreign soil to uphold our freedoms.

THE DREAM ACT

Those American values in some sense bring me also to the floor today to talk about the DREAM Act and about a young generation of people in our communities across America and across the country who would benefit from this important legislation. Our immigration system right now is broken and is in dire need of comprehensive reform. Any comprehensive immigration reform legislation must include the DREAM Act. I believe the DREAM Act is worthy of adoption without that comprehensive overarching reform because these young Americans in our communities deserve the opportunity to earn their citizenship by contributing to our Nation. That is exactly the opportunity the DREAM Act seeks to afford them.

Over this last recess I was pleased to talk to many of those DREAMers. I was particularly proud to talk to them about the work a number of us are doing here, to try to achieve and make possible this legislation that would enable and empower them to contribute further. I am grateful to Senator Durbin and others who have championed this measure at the Federal level, much as I have done in the State of Connecticut as attorney general. I was also proud to talk about the Department of Homeland Security's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. This policy took effect on August 15 when DHS started to accept applications for deferred action.

Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DREAMers will have a temporary reprieve--and I emphasize temporary reprieve--from deportation. This policy step is a good one. It is in the right direction. But it affords only a temporary reprieve.

The DREAM Act would afford a permanent path to individuals who qualify: individuals who have entered the United States before the age of 16; they have been brought here by parents who may be undocumented--but young children, many of them much younger than 16, most of them in fact younger than 5 or 6 years old and who have been present in the United States for at least 5 consecutive years prior to enactment of the bill; are here through no fault or action of their own but who want to be here permanently and contribute and give back. They must have graduated from a U.S. high school or have obtained a GED or have been accepted into an institution of higher education. They must be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of application and be of good moral character.

These requirements establish a path for people who want to contribute,
have come here through no fault of their own, know the United States as the only country where they have ever lived. They usually speak no other language. Their life and their friends and their future are here.

I want to talk, as I hope to do literally every week that I am able, about an individual who embodies the DREAM Act. Her name is Zuly Molina. Her full name, actually, is Zuleyma Molina, but she goes by ``Zuly.'' She is a proud member of our Connecticut community, one of 11,000 to 20,000 young people living in Connecticut who would benefit from the DREAM Act. Zuly is here with us today through her picture. I want to talk about her life, which has been full of hardships and challenges, but also her future.

She was born in Mexico and brought to America when she was 6 years old. Her family settled in Connecticut--in fact, in New Britain. She had to learn English, which was not easy for her. In fact, she was taunted and bullied because of her lack of language skills. But she was up to the challenge. She learned English. She speaks it absolutely fluently. She decided to go to the library and translate books on her own so that she would have a command of English. She went through the New Britain public schools and graduated from New Britain High School in 2008, but at that point there were additional challenges.

Zuly wanted to stay in Connecticut and perhaps attend 2 years of community college before going to a 4-year institution. But she was not eligible at that point for in-State tuition and the option of staying in Connecticut was simply too expensive.

What did she do? Endlessly resourceful and determined, she decided to commute every day to Bay Path College in Massachusetts. There she worked in many leadership positions outside the classroom. She was president of Rotaract, which is Rotary's youth service club for young people. She was vice president of the Bay Path Christian Fellowship. She was cocaptain of the cross-country team. And she graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology, becoming the first college graduate in her family.

She felt discouraged even after graduation because she knew she could not apply for many jobs that require documentation. She decided to pursue further education, a master's degree from Bay Path College in occupational therapy. She understands now life will not be easy, but her goals of working for a hospital's feeding program and pursuing an MD are realistic. She hopes she can pursue that profession so she can work for nonprofits that help families with low income--not altogether different from the one where she grew up.

It has taken many years for Zuly to accept and thank her mother for sending her to America. She would be upset--more than upset--if the land of her life, the land that she loves--America--refuses to give her the opportunity to stay here. She has that opportunity temporarily with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. It is an administrative program. It could be ended with a new administration. It could be ended by any administration virtually overnight. She has applied for deferred action and she is undergoing the process, but she deserves more than a temporary reprieve. That is why I stand here urging my colleagues to enable Zuly to come out of the shadows, to seek a career that will enable her to contribute mightily and monumentally to all of us as a doctor, and to raise a family of her own here, as a proud United States citizen.

To these young people who identify as Americans and who were brought to this Nation at young ages as children or infants and who are here through no fault of their own, I urge my colleagues to offer one of the greatest gifts, one of the greatest privileges one can have, which is United States citizenship, so that we can say to the DREAMers on some day soon, ``my fellow American.''

Mr. President, I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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