BOSTON/State House - Over 100 immigrant students and allies held a rally at the State House on Monday to push Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) to back Sen. Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) recent inclusion of the DREAM Act into the National Defense Authorization Act as an amendment, and vote in favor of the NDAA with the DREAM Act language intact.
The DREAM Act would allow some students who are the children of undocumented immigrant parents to qualify for conditional permanent residency in the United States - provided that they graduate from a two-year community college or complete at least two years towards a four-year degree, or serve two years in the U.S. military, within a six-year period. After that time, they would be allowed to apply legal permanent resident status.
After some brief introductory remarks and a group recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, several immigrant student activists spoke about their dreams for the future, and read a statement from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as two of his aides looked on, “I’ve supported the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform for years because it’s the right thing to do. With DREAM Act kids specifically, we’re talking about hard-working, talented young people who want to contribute to the country they love but they’re denied the opportunity to attend college or serve in our military because they must remain in the shadows of a broken immigration system. That’s not just their loss, it is ours as well. Many of these kids have spent nearly their entire lives in America and were brought here as infants. These would-be American students and soldiers embody the spirit of countless immigrants that came before them. I’m grateful to organizations like the Student Immigrant Movement for recognizing the need for reform and for its leadership in standing up for Massachusetts students.”
Renata Teodoro, an organizer with the Student Immigrant Movement, then encouraged the attendees to act now to get the DREAM Act passed, "I want to tell everyone that we're no longer in the shadows. We have come into the light. We are undocumented and we're unafraid. And we're telling our stories because we know we can contribute to this country. This is a historical moment. We have been working on the DREAM Act for 10 years.
"When I first heard about this, I was in junior high. I graduated junior high. I graduated high school. And now I'm an adult. And there's junior high students who are undocumented. They're DREAMers. There's high school students who are DREAMers. There're college students who are DREAMers. There's college students who've already graduated and are getting their Masters who are DREAMers. We have a whole new generation of DREAMers. And this is our time, this is our chance to pass the DREAM Act. We have been fighting really hard here with the Student Immigrant Movement. But we need all of you - this is a time to give everything you've got. We want you to stand with us at the vigil. We want you to make calls to Sen. Brown's office. We want you to write letters. We want you to get your friends to write letters. Everybody you know. Because this is the time. It's been 10 years. And we need it now. "
At the conclusion of the rally, attendees marched to Government Center, where they held another short rally, and began a 24-hour vigil aimed at convincing Sen. Brown to back the DREAM Act - which could be voted on in the Senate as soon as today. The bill would then have to pass the House - where tough resistance is expected - before landing on President Obama's desk for his decision.
Immigrant student organizers plan to continue their efforts to get the DREAM Act passed until victory.
Sen. Brown's staff did not respond to a request for comment.