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Final DREAM Vote Set for Saturday – Urgent Senate Action Needed!

Posted: December 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Deferred Action, National News | No Comments »

This is our best and last shot for the DREAM Act this Congress – Keep calling Senate offices!

On Thursday night Dec. 16, Senate Majority Leader Reid filed cloture on the Dream Act (H.R. 5281) setting the bill up for the critical “cloture” vote in the Senate expected on Saturday.  The Senate will need 60 votes for Dream to move forward.  With the House’s passage of Dream last week, we are closer than ever to victory!

This is the vote we’ve all been waiting for.  With only days left in the Lame-Duck, there won’t be another chance.  You must continue making calls and sending emails to all Senators to urge them to vote “yes” on DREAM when the Senate brings it up for a vote. A list of key swing Senate targets is included.

Click on the Take Action link to enter your zip code, get the contact information for your Senators, and find useful talking points for your call.

All Offices Should be contacted, but if you live in these states, we REALLY need your support because one of your Senators is a SWING VOTE on DREAM!

State Department Visa Usage Statistics

Posted: December 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: National News | No Comments »

For those of you who are interested in seeing the trends of granted visas for the United States in the last 5 years, here are the most recent statistics.

January 2011 Visa Bulletin: Family-Sponsored Visa Categories Massively Retrogress

Posted: December 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: National News | No Comments »

AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 10121449 (posted Dec. 14, 2010)

The Department of State (DOS) has significantly retrogressed cut-off dates for family-sponsored preference categories (F-1 to F-3) effective with the January 2011 Visa Bulletin.

The level of demand for visa numbers in the family-sponsored preference categories was very low from early 2009 through September 2010. Accordingly, the cut-off dates for most family preference categories were advanced at a rapid pace, in an attempt to generate demand so the annual numerical limits could be fully utilized. As a result of the accelerated level of demand over the last few months, the State Department has retrogressed most of the worldwide cut-off dates effective January 1, 2011. For example, the family sponsored preference 2A category (spouse and children of LPR) for most countries retrogressed from August 1, 2010, to January 1, 2008. The family sponsored 2B category for most countries retrogressed from June 1, 2005 to April 15, 2003, per the January 2011 Visa Bulletin (AILA Doc. No. 10120964).

According to the State Department, it is unlikely these categories will recover for some time since demand for family-sponsored preference categories does not appear to be subsiding.

The DREAM Act: Young people’s perspective

Posted: December 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: National News | No Comments »

First published in  Dispatches From The Heartland by John Creighton for The Washington Times.

LONGMONT, Colo. — Most Americans agree the DREAM Act is a good idea yet the bill continues to languish in the U.S. Senate.  For many of us, the DREAM Act is just another issue – in the news today, gone tomorrow.  For young people affected by this legislation, it has the potential to shape the rest of their lives.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with a handful of students who would benefit from the DREAM Act.  It is difficult to do justice to their passion, their knowledge and the civil way in which they told me their stories.  Here is a little bit of what they had to say.

“I get that our parents broke the law.  I get that,” exclaimed one young woman.  She was responding to my questions about some people’s point of view that the United States must never forgive illegal immigration.  “But what are we supposed to do,” she asked referring to herself and others brought to this country when they were very young.

“It seems like there’s a huge lack of empathy, not even sympathy,” a young man remarked.  “I don’t know if people have taken time to think about this.”

As a starting point, the young people with whom I spoke would like people to at least consider their point of view and not rush to judgment.

“We’re not like [the stereotypes],” asserted a young woman.  “We’re not all criminals.  I’ve worked two jobs since I was 15 to save for college because I won’t be able to get loans.”

“We can’t get Medicaid,” asserted a young man.  “That’s impossible without a Social Security number.  We pay taxes but we’re not eligible for benefits.”  Even if the DREAM Act passes, these students would not be eligible for many, perhaps most, government services.

“We’ve contributed all our lives,” added another student.  “We volunteer.  We collect food for the food drive and clothes for the clothes drive [at school].  We always try to help.

Several of the students who told me their stories earn top grades.  Some have resumes that would make any parent proud.  They have no blemishes on their “record” never getting crossways with authorities in school or with the police.  They are hard working kids whose futures are cloudy because they have no way to get a Social Security number.

“I don’t think people know what they are saying when they ask that,” responded a young man when I asked the students why they don’t return to their home country and then return through a legal process. “I don’t have anywhere to go back to.”

Even if they had memories of a home country, these students don’t see that as a realistic option.  They cite the enormous expense required to pay various fees.  “That process is for the ‘elites’ who have plenty of money,” said a young man.  “You’ve got to understand.  [Our parents] were escaping desperate situations.  They are trying to make things better for us.”  Another student asked, “What would you do for your kids?”

All of the young people with whom I spoke were brought to this country before the age of ten.  Most in this group were brought here before the age of five.  The United States is the only home they’ve known.

“I want to be an American,” declared one student.  “This is the only place I know.”  The group discussed assertions that the DREAM Act is a form of amnesty.  The students disagree.  “Amnesty means no requirements,” said the same student.  “We have to earn our [legal] status.”  Those who qualify for the DREAM Act will receive conditional legal status that requires either two years military service or college, among other requirements.

The students with whom I spoke are willing to meet the requirements in the DREAM Act.  They don’t protest that these requirements are too severe.  The one thing they struggle to understand is that they are a target of hate.

“People need to know that racism is still out there.”  The students talk about being called names, accused of being criminals and being branded inferior.  It’s hard to dispute their claims.  Look at my last column.  Slurs are imbedded in people’s comment “handles.”

Much of the vitriol students experience is from a distance – for instance, media reinforced stereotypes.  But, these young people feel ostracized at school, too.  “[Our legal status] is definitely a social hazard,” conceded one young man.

Any parent of a teenager knows that what young people want most is to fit in – it’s painful for teenagers who don’t.  The inability to fit in is a tension these student face every day.  “I didn’t even know my status until I was thirteen,” said one young man.  “It got hard when my friends in football could do things I couldn’t do.  I couldn’t get a drivers license when they did.”  Teenagers notice these differences and start to ask questions.

A young woman explained, “Sometimes you feel ashamed because you can’t do what your friends are doing.  They ask, ‘Why aren’t you going for that scholarship?’  It’s hard to know what to say.”  She concluded in a quiet voice, “Some friends keep their distance when they learn [of my legal status].”

“I want to tell people my story,” said a young man.  “But, you never know how people will react.  I’m disappointed when friends don’t stand by me.  I’m not mad.  I’m disappointed.”

At a particularly passionate point in the conversation, referring again to the slurs and negative stereotypes he and his peers must endure, a young man asserted, “We feel no malice.  Our tone is not evil.  So it hurts to see so much hatred directed toward us.”

He concluded quietly but forcefully, “Is it really so offensive that we want [opportunities] others are born into?  What is so wrong with that that it leads to much hatred?”

These types of hardships can be endured if there is hope for the future.  These students sometimes struggle to maintain that hope.  “I sometimes wonder if all the hard work I’m doing is worth the effort,” said one student.  The students said this is a common feeling among the students living without legal status.  Few things crush the spirit more than having to settle for a life that is less than one’s potential.  That’s what these students face.

But, the students I met express resilience.  “There are moments,” conceded one student, “but I have to be optimistic.  This is our future.  We have to help people understand.”

“People have been telling us our whole life that things aren’t possible.  But, we’ve always had to prove people wrong,” said one young man adding that he’ll keep working.

The young people with whom I spoke understand that there is a need for comprehensive immigration reform.  “The immigration system is badly broken,” agreed one student.  But, while students wait for comprehensive reform, the clock on their future is ticking.   Another young woman remarked, “My cousin is 28 years-old.  If this doesn’t pass now, she won’t be eligible anymore (a person must be younger than 30 to qualify for legal status).”

The conversation ended with the students asking me what I think about the DREAM Act.  My answer is simple:  I favor the DREAM Act because, as a conservative friend and fellow elected official often says to me, “It’s the right thing to do.”  The United States will not benefit by punishing children for the “sins” of their parents.  Indeed, our country’s greatness is built upon providing people with opportunities.

The young people who told me their stories understand how precious opportunity is.  They watch their peers who were born in the United States take for granted what it means to be an American. “They don’t know what they’ve got,” said one student.  I’m confident the students I met would make the most of even small opportunities – they already have.

Even if a moral argument in favor of the DREAM Act is not persuasive, looking at things from a practical perspective also suggests it is the right thing to do.  I defy anyone to provide an example from U.S. History when it was productive to suppress the spirit and human potential of a young man or woman.  Potential is something to nurture, not ignore.

But, I think the moral argument holds.  As my consistently conservative hometown newspaper editorialized just a few days ago, a failing DREAM Act is a failure of responsibility to our youth.

*     *     *

John Creighton writes on community life and public leadership at

Idea of the Day: Passing the DREAM Act Will Strengthen U.S. Workforce

Posted: December 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: National News | No Comments »

First published by Center for American Progress

The United States is sitting on a goldmine of potential scientists, engineers, and technicians. Sadly, these future innovators cannot work legally in the United States because they are not citizens.

This week the Senate will vote on the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children provided they meet certain strict conditions. One such condition is the completion of a two- or four-year college degree. Another condition is active military service for at least two years, during which time many students will receive technical education that will strengthen and secure the country, as well as the opportunity to pursue higher education upon discharge.

The National Immigration Law Center estimates that around 800,000 students would benefit from the passage of the DREAM Act. This is contrary to popular conservative rhetoric that this bill constitutes “amnesty” or will “open the flood gates” for all immigrants. Nonetheless, without a path to citizenship, the employment, earnings, and contribution of these gifted young people are effectively eviscerated.

No formal data exists on the exact educational pursuits of these students, but reasonable projections can be made. Latinos, for example, who make up the largest population of undocumented students, were awarded 36,402 degrees in technical fields in 2006 (31.5 percent of total Latino college degrees) according to data from the NSF.

We can roughly estimate, then, that passing the DREAM Act could add as many as 252,000 new scientists, engineers, and technical workers to this country’s critically thin supply. Conversely, failing to pass the bill would rob this country of a critical mass of brain power and technological innovation. An undocumented scientist or engineer has little to no hope of finding a job in their field of expertise—a travesty given their extraordinary sacrifice and intellectual potential.


Posted: December 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: National News | No Comments »

Late last night, Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) filed a new version of the DREAM Act (S. 3992) with the aim of attracting broader support for DREAM to get the requisite 60 votes to pass the Senate. With the filing of this new bill, the anticipated date for bringing DREAM to a vote will be delayed. The earliest Reid could file a cloture motion on the new bill would be this coming Thursday. After waiting out the requisite 30 hours post-cloture, it could “ripen” over the weekend, and effectively come up for a vote on Monday at the earliest.

The new version addresses many of the concerns raised by Republicans and tightens the restrictions on eligibility in several respects. Among other changes, the new version does the following:

  • Excludes from eligibility those with certain criminal convictions, such as for offenses punishable by a maximum term of more than 1 year (felony) or 3 misdemeanors
  • Requires all applicants to provide their biometric data to DHS, to submit to background checks and medical examination, and to register for military selective service
  • Requires applicants to pay all taxes
  • Sets the cut-off age to those who are less than 30 years-old on the date of enactment
  • Provides a “safe harbor” from removal only to those applicants who present a prima facie case of eligibility
  • Extends the good moral character requirement back to the date the alien entered the United States rather than the date of enactment of DREAM
  • Expands the applicable grounds of inadmissibility to include the health-related, public charge, smuggling, draft dodging, and unlawful voting grounds
  • Expands the applicable grounds of deportability to include public charge, unlawful voting, and marriage fraud grounds
  • Excludes those who participated in persecution
  • Clarifies that no one can apply before 1 year after enactment
  • Requires applicants to demonstrate eligibility by a preponderance of the evidence
  • Eliminates repeal of the in-state tuition ban
  • Defines institution of higher education to include only U.S.-based programs
  • Requires those who subsequently apply for adjustment to meet the English language and civics requirements typically required for naturalization
  • Expands the circumstances where disclosure of confidential information about DREAM applicants is required for homeland security or national security purposes
  • Creates conditional nonimmigrant status for 10 years, followed by 3 years of LPR status prior to application for naturalization