As the Senate continues debate on comprehensive immigration reform, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez today joined New Jersey DREAMers at Montclair State University in calling for passage of commonsense immigration reform. Menendez, as a member of the Gang of Eight, helped write the bipartisan legislation that ensures a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and allows thousands of young men and women to achieve their full potential with the strongest DREAM Act provisions in history.
"There is no summer vacation for those working for comprehensive immigration reform," said Sen. Menendez. "It's in the economic interest of the United States to harness and develop the talent that all of our young people have to offer. The time has come to allow thousands of young men and women who are kept from enrolling at colleges and universities to finally achieve their full potential, to be participants in American life and full contributors to the American economy through their ingenuity, skills, and hard work. That's what the DREAM Act has always been about and that's what immigration reform is about."
Menendez pointed to a poll released this week sponsored by the Alliance for Citizenship, Partnership for a New American Economy and Republicans for Immigration reform which shows strong support for the "Gang of 8's" bipartisan immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship. Across 29 states, nearly 70 percent of likely voters said they support bipartisan immigration reform being debated in Washington and 72 percent want a tough, but fair pathway to citizenship.
In New Jersey, according to the poll, voters support the Gang of Eight bill by large margins. Moreover, the results show that there is a genuine imperative for members of Congress to support the bill as constituents said they are more likely to vote for an elected official who votes for reform.
Highlights of the findings for New Jersey:
62 percent of those polled said they strongly or somewhat support bipartisan immigration reform legislation being debated in Washington.
71 percent of those polled said they strongly or somewhat support a bill that includes a tough but fair path to citizenship.
59 percent of those polled are more likely to vote for an elected official who supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.
87 percent of those polled said it was very or somewhat important that the U.S. fix its immigration system this year.
Of those polled, 32 percent identified as Republicans, 44 percent as Democrats, and 24 percent as Independents.
Menendez was joined by several New Jersey DREAMers who told their stories, including:
Liborio Li Adorno Li is a 20-year-old DREAMer born in Puebla, Mexico. When Li was 7 years old, his parents decided to come to the United States looking for a better life for their family. He is fluent in both English and Spanish, and still lives with his family in north New Jersey. This fall, Li will start his Bachelor's degree as a freshman at Kean University majoring in Psychology. Li is one of the many DREAMers in NJ who was recently approved for President Obama's Deferred Action program.
Pedro Sabillon Pedro, 23, came to the U.S. when he was 13 (in 2003) with his mom and two brothers. His father had preceded him by 5 years. He is originally from Honduras. Pedro played soccer in High School in New Brunswick and will be entering his senior year in the fall at Rutgers as an engineering student -- on a full scholarship. He applied for deferred action in August when it first became available, and that deferred action was recently granted. Because he did not have a social security number, he could not work. Now that he has deferred action, he has unpaid internship to gain some experience.
Ana Bonilla Ana, 21, is from Puebla, Mexico and came to New Brunswick when she was 9 years old. Ana graduated from Middlesex County College with an Associates degree focusing on Chemistry. She was awarded DACA status in 2013, and is planning on furthering her education focusing on a STEM field. Ana wants comprehensive immigration reform to pass because she is tired of seeing her peers struggle with education access and personal family lives. She believes that CIR will grant immigrants a sense of belonging to this country.
Tomorrow, June 15, is the one-year anniversary of the announcement by President Obama of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would not deport certain undocumented youth and that these youth would be eligible for work permits. Since last August, 515,922 people applied for DACA and 497,965 have been approved. Just last week, House Republicans voted to revoke the program.
The Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill, S. 744, contains the strongest DREAM Act provisions in recent history. The provisions would apply to those who entered the U.S. before the age of 16, with no age cap, and allow DREAMers to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident after five years instead of the usual 10 years. The bill counts DREAMers' time in PRI status towards naturalization, allowing them to become citizens immediately after they receive their green card. S. 744 also exempts DREAMers from the penalties and triggers in the bill. Those who have received relief under DACA are also given streamlined procedure. The provisions would also give states the option to provide undocumented students in-state tuition, and the provision would make those who entered the U.S. before the age of sixteen eligible for certain student loans and work-study programs.
Under this bill, DREAMers must show that they have earned a high school diploma or certain equivalents, and they must show that they have either acquired a degree from an institution of higher education; have completed at least two years, in good standing, of a higher education degree; or have served in the Uniformed Services for at least four years. The Secretary will have authority to waive these requirements for immigrants who can show compelling circumstances.