Sunday, December 19, 2010

Young Supporters Vow to Keep Fighting for DREAM-ACT

Young supporters vow to keep fighting for DREAM Act

12:00 AM CST on Sunday, December 19, 2010
By SHERRY JACOBSON / The Dallas Morning News

After the U.S. Senate killed the DREAM Act on Saturday, its young supporters vowed to continue the fight.

"It's a heartbreaking loss, but we're going to keep fighting for it," said Him Ranjit, a University of Texas at Austin student who was in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to support the legislation.

"I've never seen the Senate chambers that full," he said of students who were present to witness the vote. "We were holding hands and praying and hoping for the best."

Ranjit, who came to Texas from Nepal, said he would struggle to continue his biomedical engineering studies without the financial support that students who are citizens typically receive.

"It's hard trying to come up with money for school every year," he said. "Me and the other undocumented students have worked for two years to try to get this law passed."

The DREAM Act would have created a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before age 16. It was dealt a death blow in the Senate by Republicans and a handful of Democrats who said it would reward illegal activity.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who voted against the act, said border security and other aspects of immigration policy must come first.

"I am sympathetic to the plight of children who have no moral culpability for being in this country illegally, and I support the intent of the bill today," he said, "but not this legislation, and not this way."

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said she could not support the act because it did not go through the usual Senate hearings and deliberative process.

"Such serious legislation should be brought up in a time frame that allows for consideration, deliberation and consensus through full debate and amendments," she said in a statement.

Ramiro Luna, a student at Texas Tech University, said it was hard for him and other students in the country illegally not to take the defeat personally.

"We need to go to school. We need to get jobs. We're here," he said shortly after regrouping Saturday with other students in Washington.

"We did everything that we possibly could," he said, noting that they had met with both Texas senators to plead for the bill and also held several demonstrations.

"We have nothing else to do but to go on fighting," he said. "This is our lives."

Jennifer Cortez, a University of Texas at Arlington senior, predicted that Saturday's vote would make the student movement stronger.

"A lot of people are very disheartened about it," she said of the vote. "Even though we lost, everything we've done isn't lost."

Although she is not an illegal immigrant, Cortez last year helped establish the North Texas DREAM Team, an organization of 150 students who tried to rally support for the act.

She expected the group to begin focusing on the Texas Legislature, where a number of immigration bills have been filed for the session starting next month.

"We see Texas as being threatened with anti-immigration laws like what happened in Arizona," she said. "We can't stop fighting."

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