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Entries in DREAM Act (19)

Friday
Aug032012

$465 for Legal Status Under Obama’s ‘Dream Act’

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration will formally begin granting some young undocumented immigrants legal status and work permits later this month under a controversial new policy first announced by President Obama in June.

The Department of Homeland Security Friday announced details of the application and approval process for the DREAM Act-like program, outlining specific eligibility requirements and a $465 fee. It will begin Aug. 15.

Illegal immigrants younger than 30 who came to the United States before age 16, have lived here for at least five years continuously, attend or have graduated from high school or college, and have no criminal convictions are eligible to submit requests for so-called deferred action. In other words, they would be exempt from deportation.

The administration said documentation provided by each applicant will be reviewed individually on a case-by-case basis at one of four service centers run by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.  It’s unclear how long each review will take, but some immigrants are expected to receive temporary legal status before Election Day.

While the “dreamers” will not obtain a path to citizenship or the right to vote, Obama’s policy shift -- circumventing Congress with executive action – has been widely seen as a politically motivated nod to Hispanics who have long sought the change.

Obama’s Republican critics Friday sharply assailed the new policy as unconstitutional and out of touch with the jobs crisis U.S. citizens face.

“Today’s deferred action guidance is another example of how the president’s policies put the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of the interests of U.S. citizens and legal immigrants,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith said.

“On the same day the unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent, the Obama administration announced a requirement for illegal immigrants to apply to be able to work in the U.S.,” the GOP congressman from Texas said. “The administration’s guidelines don’t just encourage illegal immigrants to work in the U.S., they actually require them to apply to do so.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the process is a compassionate and common-sense approach to a group of individuals who were brought to the United States illegally by no fault of their own and have grown up as Americans.

“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” Napolitano said in a statement. “But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case.

“Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun232012

Undocumented Immigrant Sees Impact of Obama Shift on 2012 Campaign

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.) — Jose Manuel Godinez-Samperi can’t vote in the November election. But Godinez-Samperi, along with and tens of thousands of other young undocumented immigrants are indelibly influencing the 2012 presidential race.

These so-called “dreamers,” who came to the U.S. before age 16, entering the country illegally alongside their parents or as tourists, and grew up as Americans, are now at the center of a high-stakes policy debate over deportations, jobs and citizenship.

Its tone and substance is particularly resonant with Latino voters in several key swing states, including Florida.

“It shows the influence that ‘dreamers’ have in this country. We’ve come a long way in the past 10 years since we’ve been fighting for the DREAM Act. It shows that people can’t ignore us anymore,” said Godinez-Samperi, 25, a Mexican by birth who came to the U.S. with his parents as a fourth grader.

“Both presidential candidates are paying us attention, and in part that has been thanks to Sen. Marco Rubio who helped open the political space by making his proposal,” he said in an interview with ABC News on the sidelines of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference here.

Rubio, a Republican from Florida who is under consideration as a potential running mate for GOP nominee Mitt Romney, had recently drafted new legislation to provide relief for young immigrants like Godinez-Samperi, who live under threat of deportation. He was ultimately preempted by President Obama, who last week used executive authority to temporarily suspend removals and grant work permits to qualified youth.

“It will certainly help in the election for Obama,” said Godinez-Samperi, who was skeptical the shift would yield immediate, personal benefits while acknowledging it as a step forward.

“The discourse is changing. People are talking about it differently,” he said.  “Presidential candidate Romney before was talking about how we should all self-deport and he would veto the Dream Act. But now his position is less clear. So the fact that we have been able to change the discourse in this country is a huge step forward.”

Romney has said he would replace Obama’s temporary measure with a permanent solution, but has not fully outlined what that would be. He has previously said he would veto the DREAM Act, a piece of bipartisan legislation first introduced in 2001 that would grant legal status to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before age 16, have clean criminal records, graduated high school and attend college or join the military.  It has failed to pass Congress on several tries, most recently in 2010.

How will the candidates’ position on the DREAM Act play with Latino voters in Florida?

“It makes a huge difference because there are a lot of people that are voting for me, especially in this state,” Godinez-Samperi said.

Public opinion polls show a majority of Americans support the DREAM Act provisions, with the strongest backing coming from Latino voters from across the political spectrum.

“I’ve been living in this country the majority of my life. I haven’t committed any crimes. I haven’t been arrested for anything. I’ve never been in trouble. All I’m asking is a chance to contribute to this society,” said Godinez-Samperi.  He graduated from a Florida high school as valedictorian in 2004 and later earned a law degree from Florida State University College of Law.

Godinez-Samperi passed the Florida bar exam on his first try but was denied a license by the Florida Board of Examiners because of his legal status, he said.  He is now asking the Florida Supreme Court to review his case.

“I’m in the same boat as Senator Marco Rubio,” he said.  “He graduated from law school just like I did. He passed the bar exam just like I did. And if I were in his position, if I were to get the benefits he got because he’s Cuban I would very gladly strive to do as much public service as he did.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun222012

Obama Swipes at Romney in Address to Latino Officials

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.) -- It was billed as an “official” presidential speech on policy, but President Obama thrust election year politics front and center at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials annual conference today – including direct attacks on GOP rival Mitt Romney.

“Yesterday your featured speaker came here and said that the election in November isn't about two people; it's not about being a Republican or Democrat or an independent; it is about the future of America. And while we've got a lot of differences, he and I, on this point, I could not agree more,” Obama said at the top of his remarks.

But then the president framed the 2012 race as a stark choice, with high economic stakes for Latinos and the middle class.

“The question is not whether we need to do better. Of course the economy isn't where it needs to be. Of course there's still too many who struggle. We've got so much work to do,” Obama said. “But the question is, how do we make the economy grow faster? How do we create more jobs? How do we create more opportunity? The question is, what vision are we going to stand up for? Who are we going to fight for? That's what we have to decide right now. That's what this election's about.”

Obama said his vision for economic growth centers on increased government spending on programs aimed at boosting the middle class, including federal aid to states to hire teachers and first responders, education and job training programs, and infrastructure projects to put construction workers back on the job.

“What's holding us back is a stalemate, a stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different views of which direction we should go,” Obama said.

“The Republicans who run Congress, the man at the top of their ticket -- they don't agree with any of the proposals I just talked about. They believe the best way to grow the economy is from the top down,” he said. “I think they’re wrong.”

Turning to immigration, Obama claimed to be a champion of ever-elusive comprehensive reform from the beginning of his term and pledged to continue to fight for it. He did not mention the two years Democrats controlled Congress.

“In the face of a Congress that refuses to do anything on immigration, I've said that I'll take action wherever I can,” he said.

He called the executive action he took last week, suspending deportation of some young illegal immigrants and granting them work permits, an important albeit temporary step toward the DREAM Act. He blamed Republicans for obstructing its passage five years after co-sponsoring it.

“The need had not changed. The bill hadn't changed, written with Republicans. The only thing that had changed was politics,” Obama said, lambasting congressional GOP to standing applause. “And I refused to keep looking young people in the eye -- deserving young people in the eye and telling them, tough luck, the politics is too hard.”

Then, taking a swipe at Romney, Obama said: “Your speaker from yesterday has a different view. In his speech, he said that when he makes a promise to you, he'll keep it. Well, he has promised to veto the DREAM Act. And we should take him at his word. I'm just saying. I believe that would be a tragic mistake. You do too.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May032012

Obama: ‘No Is Not An Option’ for DREAM Act

SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama told a largely Hispanic audience Thursday that he is ready to sign the DREAM Act and blamed Republicans for the failure of the legislation that would grant illegal immigrant students a path to citizenship.

“We’re going to keep fighting for this common-sense reform -- not just because hundreds of thousands of talented young students depend on it, but because ultimately America depends on it,” the president said at the annual Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House. “‘No’ is not an option. I want to sign the DREAM Act into law. I’ve got the pens all ready. I’m willing to work with anybody who is serious to get this done, and to achieve bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform that solves this challenge once and for all.”

Thursday’s election-year celebration comes as the president courts Latino voters in the run-up to November.

“We know that securing our future depends on making sure that all Americans have the opportunity to reach their potential. And that’s why we’ve worked hard over the last three and a half years to create jobs; to make sure you get the care you need when you get sick; to make college affordable for everybody; to ensure that no matter where you are, where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is -- even if it’s Obama -- you can make it if you try,” the president said to applause.

In his brief remarks, Obama welcomed everyone to celebrate the “tres de Mayo” at this year’s party. The president will spend the real Cinco de Mayo this Saturday campaigning in Ohio and Virginia. “We just like to get the fiesta started early around here,” he joked.

This year’s “fiesta” included dance performances by Georgetown University’s Ballet Folklórico and traditional Mexican music. Guests mingled in the Rose Garden, sipping champagne and, of course, margaritas.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr232012

Romney Still 'Studying' Rubio's Dream Act, Won't Talk About Veepstakes

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(ASTON, Pa.) – Mitt Romney declined to endorse Sen. Marco Rubio’s version of the Dream Act on Monday, saying only that it is something he is “studying.”

“He and I have spoken about his thinking on his version of a different act than the Dream Act that’s been proposed in the Senate,” said Romney, standing next to Sen. Rubio.

“The one that's been proposed in the Senate creates a new category of citizenship for certain individuals,” said Romney. “The senator's proposal does not create that new category but instead provides visas for those that came into the country that came in as young people with their families. Visas, for those that come into the country that came in as young people with their families.”

“I'm taking a look at his proposal,” said Romney. “It has many features to commend it. But it's something that we're studying."

Pressed on his own immigration plan and whether there is any group of undocumented people in the U.S. who he would consider giving some sort of legal path to citizenship to other than members of the military, Romney said he would be speaking about this “down the road.”

“You know, I anticipate before the November election, we’ll be laying out a whole series of policies relating to immigration,” said Romney. “And obviously our first priority is to secure the border.”

“I've spoken about the need to have a visa system that's right sized for the needs of our employment community,” said Romney. “How we adjust the visa program to meet the needs of the country is something I'll speak to down the road, but I don't have anything for you on that.”

Asked whether he would consider Rubio, a first-term senator, as qualified enough to be his running mate who would be just “a heartbeat away” from becoming commander-in-chief, Romney shied away from answering.

“I don’t think I have any comments on qualifications for individuals to serve in various positions in government at this stage,” said Romney. “That is something that we’re going to be considering down the road as we consider various potential vice presidential nominees.”

Rubio, who barely spoke at all during the joint press conference other than a brief introductory statement, did chime in at this point.

“I’m not talking about that process anymore,” said Rubio, smiling, seemingly gun shy after accidentally referring to himself as the vice president during an interview earlier this week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr192012

Marco Rubio Pushes His Own DREAM Act

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wants his party to take a more compassionate approach to the issue of immigration. And he wants to start by changing the immigration laws to allow children of illegal immigrants with a clean record to stay in the United States legally.

“We are trying to help real children, real kids who find themselves in an unfortunate circumstance not of their doing, not of their fault,” Rubio told reporters. “I think we have an obligation to do that.”

It’s a move that thrusts Rubio into the middle of the divisive debate over immigration and could pit him against many in his own party. But Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, said his views are a reflection of his personal experience.

“Here’s the bottom line: I have thousands of kids in my state who fall under this circumstance,” Rubio said. “I know people who are under this circumstance. I live in Miami, where you can’t go four steps without walking into somebody who is an immigrant. My wife’s family is from Colombia, the guys around the corner are from Nicaragua, the folks down the street are from Peru. You go to the grocery store, and everybody is from somewhere else.”

Rubio added: “This is the reality of the community I live in, the state that I represent and the life that I have lived for 41 years. These are not theoretical concepts for me. This is the world I have seen.”

Democrats have repeatedly tried to pass a bill to help exactly the people Rubio wants to help: the so-called DREAM Act, which would allow high school graduates “of good moral character” who were brought to the U.S. as children to stay in the United States legally. Mitt Romney has said he would veto the DREAM Act because he says it rewards illegal immigration.

Rubio says he is working on an alternative to the DREAM Act that he hopes Romney will be able to support.

“Mitt Romney is the leader of the Republican party now and our hope would be to come up with something he can be supportive of,” Rubio said.

Rubio says the bill he is drafting would be different than the DREAM Act because it would not provide a special path to American citizenship. But like the Democratic bill, Rubio’s proposal would allow those who qualify to stay in the United States to work or attend college by giving them a non-immigrant visa.

He adds that the Republican party cannot be known simply as the anti-illegal immigration party.

“We are the pro-legal immigration party,” Rubio said. “We believe immigration is an important part of our heritage and an important part of our future, but we cannot be the only country in the world that does not have immigration laws, we can’t be the only country in the world that does not enforce its immigration laws.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan052012

Mitt Romney Ripped for DREAM Act Veto Threat, Alienates Some Latinos

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Largely lost in the build-up to the Iowa caucuses was a moment that could ultimately prove decisive in this year’s presidential election: Mitt Romney’s threat to veto the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide a path to citizenship to some undocumented children of immigrants who attend college or serve in the military.

Latinos are the nation’s fastest-growing voting group -- with an estimated 12 million set to vote in the election -- and, predictably, Democrats have pounced on Romney’s stance.

The Obama campaign this week dubbed Romney the most extreme GOP candidate on the immigration issue, and leading Latino Democrats said the former Massachusetts governor’s immigration approach will hurt his standing among Hispanics.

“It really demonstrates how far he is from understanding the issue,” the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Charlie Gonzalez of Texas, said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. “I understand in that particular field one will try to out-pander another, but you still have to be responsible.”

“How do you paint yourself in such a corner on immigration where you can’t walk back from that statement?” he asked.

Republicans contend that the bill would unfairly grant “amnesty” to illegal immigrants, but Romney’s stance is already alienating some Latino voters, to say nothing of Democrats and independents who largely support the measure.

Des Moines, Iowa, businessman Juan Rodriguez, a Republican voter frustrated with the harsh rhetoric on immigration from some of the GOP candidates, said he would not back Romney because of his threatened DREAM Act veto.

“My business depends on Hispanics, basically, and if there’s no immigration reform we are going to be very affected -- not just me, but all the businesses that depend, like us, on the Latino community,” Rodriguez said.

“I wouldn’t vote for Romney because he doesn’t support immigration reform or the DREAM Act,” he added.

Instead, Rodriguez backed Romney’s rival, Newt Gingrich, in the Iowa caucuses. The former House speaker has been the lone GOP candidate to voice support for an immigration reform plan that would implement the DREAM Act.

“I can’t opine on why Romney does or does not support the DREAM Act,” said Sylvia Garcia, who heads up Hispanic outreach for Gingrich’s campaign, in a Spanish-language interview. “That is up to each person, each citizen, each voter to make their own decision about what’s most important to them."

“Newt thinks that the people who have come here, joined our armed forces, and things like that, deserve the possibility of citizenship that the DREAM Act offers,” Garcia said.

Even Obama supporters upset with the president’s inaction on immigration reform -- including Jose Zacarias of West Liberty, Iowa, the state’s first majority Latino town -- believe that the Republican field’s views -- Gingrich aside -- will help Democrats.

“Mr. Obama made a lot of promises to Hispanics in 2008 -- immigration reform, to get a chance for more people to become legals,” Zacarias said in an interview.

“The president should have focused more on Latino issues like immigration and the famous DREAM Act,” he added. “He spent too much time politically on the issue of universal health care and almost no time on Latino issues.”

Despite his frustration with Obama, Zacarias will support his re-election bid because Republicans, in his opinion, haven’t offered Latinos a better option.

“I don’t think any Hispanic in his right mind is going to vote for Rick Perry or Romney,” he said. “It might be a tough sell, but I think the GOP is helping a lot by putting those guys forward.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep142011

Obama Pitches Jobs Plan to the Hispanic Community

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama brought his jobs pitch to the Hispanic community Wednesday night, outlining the many ways in which the American Jobs Act would secure a better economic future for Hispanic-Americans and urging them to call on Congress “to do the right thing.”

“This fight could not be more important for the people in this room, for the Latino community and for millions of Americans who need help,” Obama said at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Annual Gala in Washington. “Problems in the Latino community are problems for the entire American community. Our future is tied to how well the Latino community does.

“That’s why last week I asked Congress a simple question: In the face of a national emergency, can we finally put a stop to the political circus and actually do something to help the economy? Can we restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our founding?” Obama said at the black-tie event kicking off Hispanic Heritage Month.

The president went on to tailor his pitch, explaining how the American Jobs Act would benefit students, teachers and small businesses in the Hispanic community and how it would help put money back in the hands of the middle class.

Obama repeated his plea for lawmakers to “stop playing politics” and put partisanship aside to take the steps necessary to grow the economy.

“If we’re going to do big things…we’re going to have to get Congress to act,” he said.

“Keep the heat on me, keep the heat on Nancy [Pelosi] and on the rest of the Democrats,” he added. “We feel good about where we’re at. If we’re being honest, we know the problem isn’t the members of Congress is this room. It’s the members of Congress who put party before country because they believe the only way to resolve our differences is to wait 14 months until the next election.”

Once again, Obama called on the American public to “lift up your voice, make yourself heard” and tell Congress to pass the jobs bill.

Continuing his call to action, Obama also urged Congress to pass the DREAM Act. The president said that it was “heartbreaking” to see Republican lawmakers stand in the way of the legislation, which would provide a path to legal residency for hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants first brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.

On immigration, the president said that reforming the nation’s system is “crucial” to the economy and that he wished he could circumvent Congress and pass a comprehensive policy.

“We need an immigration policy that works,” he said. “I wish I had a magic wand and could make this all happen on my own. There are times where -- until Nancy Pelosi is speaker again -- I would like to work my way around Congress … but we live in a Democracy and, at the end of the day, I can’t do this all by myself under our democratic system.”

Before his remarks, Obama pointed out several of the prominent Hispanic-Americans in attendance, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. Obama also gave a “special shout-out” to Ray Decerega, the CHCI program director, who delivered an elbow to the president’s lip during a basketball game last November, resulting in 12 stitches for Obama.

“Not many people can give the president of the United States stitches in his lip and get away with it. Ray is in unique company,” the president quipped.

“I sent him a photograph of the moment as he was throwing his elbow at me and said he’s the only person to ever do that who the Secret Service didn’t arrest,” Obama said. “And I hear he’s pretty tough off the basketball court too.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul112011

Maryland Petition Forces Referendum on State DREAM Act

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- With federal legislation perpetually stalled in Congress, 13 states have taken the DREAM Act into their own hands, passing legislation to provide in-state tuition and reduce other funding barriers so that undocumented immigrants can attend college.

Last week, Maryland became the first state to try to overturn its version of the act.

The Maryland State Board of Elections announced Thursday that opponents to the DREAM Act had collected the required 55,736 signatures, or 3 percent of voters from the last gubernatorial election, that are needed to put the law up for referendum on the ballot next November.

By Friday afternoon, the petition had 74,108 verified signatures.

"The Maryland referendum will really give lawmakers at the state and federal level a gauge for how American taxpayers feel about extending taxpayer benefits and subsidies to illegal aliens who are not taxpayers themselves," said Kristen Williamson, a spokeswoman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Maryland Sen. Victor Ramirez, who sponsored the bill, said the only reason people oppose the law is because they do not know what is actually in it.

According to the law, undocumented immigrants must attend a Maryland high school for at least three years, earn a diploma, prove their parents pay taxes and enroll in a community college paying out-of-state tuition for two years before they are eligible for in-state tuition at a four-year public university.

"I think the economy is bad, and opponents are playing off peoples' worst fears that we are giving away free tuition," Ramirez said.  "And that is absolutely false."

Sen. Dick Durbin has introduced the DREAM Act in the U.S. Senate every session since 2001.  The closest it ever came to becoming law was in 2010, when it passed in the Democrat-controlled House but was eight votes shy of overcoming a filibuster in the Senate.

The law under discussion at the federal level does not give any tuition breaks to undocumented immigrants but allows children who were brought to the country illegally when they were under the age of 15 to become permanent residents if they completed two years of college or enrolled in the military.

Opponents of the federal bill say it would grant amnesty to people who broke the law and create more competition for jobs at a time when even American citizens cannot find work.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr192011

Obama Calls Immigration Meeting to 'Keep the Debate About This Issue Alive'

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- Tuesday afternoon at the White House, President Obama met with approximately 70 leaders from the business, labor, faith and political communities to discuss immigration reform in order to “keep the debate about this issue alive,” according to one person in the room.
 
“The president asked the group to commit to moving forward to keep the debate about this issue alive, to keep it alive in the sense that it can get before Congress where the ultimate resolution of it will have to be obtained,”  Bill Bratton, former police chief, City of Los Angeles and City of New York, said following the meeting.
 
Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Council president, said it was a ”very vigorous” discussion.
 
“The president I think made a very compelling case that he will not let this issue go away. He has no plans to let the last vote on the DREAM Act be the final words on immigration.”
 
Al Sharpton, president of National Action Network, noted that the ways to approach the issue were varied, even in the meeting Tuesday, although they all agree that something must be done.
 
He called it a very “healthy beginning” started by the president.

Charles Ramsey, chief of police for the City of Philadelphia, said it was incredibly important that local police chiefs were in the room for this kind of discussion.
 
“Often times the issue of immigration has driven a wedge between us and the communities that we serve,” Chief Ramsey noted. “We have to have an approach that is reasonable.”
 
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