This weekend dozens of undocumented immigrantstook to the sands of Miami Beach
to tell Congress to pass the DREAM Act this week. About 50 people formed human billboards spelling out the words "Dream Act Now" and "Call [Sen. George] Lemieux Now."
Activists in South Florida -- a front in the immigration debate -- have been vociferous in their advocacy for the DREAM Act for more than a year. But there might not be anyone in this country hoping for the bill to pass more than one Coral Springs woman facing deportation to Colombia and separation from her entire family.
Andrea Huerfano moved here with her mother, father, and brother when she was 14. Her father died while applying for asylum status for the whole family. Andrea's mother remarried, giving both the mother and underage brother legal residency. But Andrea, who graduated from Florida State University in 2008, was left in limbo. Last December, while paying a traffic ticket, Andrea was arrested and sent to the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach.
Though she was released a few days later, and her case was given a brief reprieve, Andrea will be sent to Colombia -- where she knows not a single person -- soon, says her attorney.
Her only hope: the DREAM Act, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hopes to vote on later this week as an amendment to the Department of Defense Reauthorization bill. The DREAM Act would create a potential path to citizenship for young people whose parents brought them here illegally. If they graduate from high school, display "good moral character," and either serve two years in the military or earn a college degree, these young men and women could be granted full citizenship.
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Andrea got good grades in both high school and college, and, upon graduation, even helped register people to vote in the 2008 elections. Other than her immigration issue and her traffic ticket, she's never had any trouble with the law.
In an email, a representative of "America's Voice," an immigration reform advocacy group, said: "At a time when the immigration debate in Congress is so polarized, the DREAM Act provides a rare opportunity for bipartisan lawmaking, if Senate Republicans do the right thing."
Andrea feels understandably uncomfortable with the attention and would rather not comment publicly, but the New York Times came to this conclusion in today's editorial page:
For years the Dream Act was shackled to larger immigration bills as a sweetener to help forge one big compromise. Now that comprehensive reform is dead in this Congress, and perhaps in the next, the Dream Act is the best hope for legalizing any significant number of Americans-in-waiting.
The president and Congress and dejected supporters of comprehensive reform have an obligation to make the Dream Act come true. Republican senators who have shelved their commitment to reform should help make it happen: people like Orrin Hatch, an original Dream Act sponsor, now a sour voice for border control. Sam Brownback, another former supporter. And the formerly bipartisan Lindsey Graham and John McCain.
The Dream Act alone won't achieve the large-scale reform the country needs. But it will be a desperately needed affirmation that fixing immigration is not all about border fear and lockdowns. It's about welcoming the hopeful.