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Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington DC


Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I hope that many of my colleagues, in returning to their home States for the August recess, may have an opportunity to attend a citizenship ceremony. I do so regularly when I go home. During the July 4th break, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend several. These ceremonies can occur in courthouses or in townhalls. They swear the oath and are newly made citizens. They are accompanied by families and friends. It is a uniquely joyous and proud day in their lives. Many have waited years to become U.S. citizens, and they do so not only willingly but joyfully. There are tears in many of their eyes, and there are tears in my eyes as well because it recalls to me the day many years ago, decades ago, when I first attended such a ceremony, which in turn recalls for me the stories of my own relatives who came to this country from other shores. So did many of the parents or grandparents--forebears of we who serve in this body.

The meaning of citizenship of the United States and the value of those rights that come with citizenship are often forgotten or unappreciated by many of us who were born in this country. We sometimes, unfortunately, take them for granted. But there is a tremendous value placed on those rights and liberties by people who come to the United States.

Today I wish to talk about people who come to the United States or more precisely are brought to the United States as young people, as infants or children, many under 4 or 5 years old, and this country becomes the only one they have known. The history of this country is their history. They may not even know the language of the country from which they came. The language of this country is the only one they know, and they have no memories or scant recollections of the countries where they were born. These young people are here, and they were brought here perhaps by parents who came illegally, but they are here through no fault of their own.

Many of them have achieved remarkably and have contributed extraordinarily. Their promise of future achievement is staggering, extraordinarily impressive in its potential contribution to the lives of their communities--to teaching, to giving back to their communities--their contributions in terms of scientific or literary accomplishments.

One such young person is Muller Gomes. I am going to tell his story today much as Senator Durbin has told other stories on the floor of this Chamber in his steadfast and energetic advocacy of a measure called the DREAM Act. I want to follow him in engaging this Chamber in this effort. I thank distinguished colleagues, such as Senator Durbin, who have been tireless advocates for the passage of the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act, called by its full name, ``Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors,'' should be a top priority for this Congress. States such as Connecticut have passed their versions of it, but a national and uniform effort is essential. Much as we hope and I support that we will have comprehensive immigration law reform, I also believe the DREAM Act is an idea whose time has more than come. We should be adopting it as soon as possible in this Chamber to provide the kind of certainty and promise that is so important to young people like Muller Gomes.

Muller Gomes was brought to this country from Brazil when he was 5 years old. He came with a tourist visa in 1995. The tourist visa expired a year later, in 1996, so he has been here without proper documentation since then. He has been through the Bridgeport public schools, Central High School in Bridgeport, and then he went to Fairfield University.

This is this young man at his graduation from Fairfield University--his graduation summa cum laude. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Mu Epsilon and Sigma Xi. He won the American Chemical Society Outstanding Senior Chemistry Major Award, and he has been accepted at the University of California at Berkeley's physical chemistry Ph.D. program.

All that he lacked was a student visa to pursue his studies at UC Berkeley. He lacks a student visa, and if he returns to Brazil to seek one, he will be denied it because he has been undocumented in this country.

If there were ever a catch-22, Muller Gomes is its poster child under our current immigration law. Under current law, that student visa will be denied him. Fortunately, on June 15, 2012, the Obama administration made a very strong statement of support for young men and women like Muller Gomes. They issued a regulation or a directive that will permit him to remain in this country. That directive is lacking in a number of respects compared to the DREAM Act. It will be temporary--only for a couple of years. It is not a path to citizenship, as the DREAM Act would provide. It does not make him eligible for the kind of financial aid he would need. Most importantly, it requires him to go through the stress and uncertainty of applying again for deferred action. It is only a deferral of deportation.

So the DREAM Act remains a vitally important measure for literally thousands of young people--between 11,000 and 20,000 young people living in Connecticut who would benefit from the DREAM Act and 2 million young people nationwide. Under the DREAM Act, they would comply with rigorous standards and requirements--lack of criminal record, criminal history, and they would in effect be provided this pathway to citizenship because of their promise and their potential for contributing to this country--in Muller Gomes' case, the potential for contributing to this country as a scientist who would make new discoveries, perhaps breakthrough discoveries that would benefit the entire country. We laud young people like him who are motivated and smart and dedicated to this country.

I am committed to comprehensive immigration reform achieved through bipartisan congressional action. That ought to be one of our immediate goals so that young people like Muller Gomes, brought to this country as children through no fault of their own, will have the opportunity to contribute to this Nation and be part of their communities, as the DREAM Act would provide and as comprehensive immigration reform would also achieve.

But in the meantime, let's pass the DREAM Act so these dreamers, such as Muller Gomes, will have the basic guarantees and certainty that they can remain in this country and that the promise of the greatest Nation in the history of the world will be truly theirs and irrevocable. This country will be theirs regardless of religion, race, gender, or any of the arbitrary labels we say consistently and constantly should have no place in our judgments about human beings.

Our Nation will be better because Muller Gomes will be with us and our Nation would be better still if the millions like him have the security and certainty of a path toward citizenship--a path that will benefit them and benefit the greatest Nation in the history of the world.

I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.


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