Olivas testifies for DREAM Act

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Michael Olivas

June 28, 2011 -- University of Houston Law Center Professor Michael A. Olivas submitted testimony today to a U.S. Senate subcommittee in favor of the DREAM Act which would allow students of illegal immigrants to stay in the United States.

Olivas has worked for many years in behalf of immigrants and minorities and helped draft legislation in Texas and six other states granting in-state tuition for undocumented students.  Today’s hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security is the first before the Senate since a variation of the Act was first introduced in 2001.

Olivas noted in his written testimony that his hopes for the bill, and those of students directly involved, have been dashed over the years as the legislation has appeared close to passage only to fall short. “Many courageous if foolhardy students revealed themselves or had their immigration status made public, putting them and worse, their families, in a dangerous and insecure position,” he wrote to panel members. “While some have received deferred action or are in a legal limbo, a number have been removed or deported to countries they have never known.” The immigration status of others became evident, he said, only after “they won an academic award or robotic championship, or moved to post-baccalaureate success, only to encounter problems with licensing and state professional authorities or bar membership practices.”

The latest bill was introduced May 11 by Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill.), who has pushed for the legislation since he first introduced it 10 years ago. The bill would allow qualifying students to gain “conditional” status if they earn at least two years of college credit or serve two years in the military. After a six-year conditional period they would be eligible to apply for “permanent” status and eventual U.S. citizenship.

Olivas offered his enthusiastic support for the current bill, but added, “I do not wish to quibble over the details, although as I do the immigration math on the proposed conditional permanent residence provisions, it would be well over a dozen years before some of these students would reach eligibility for U.S. citizenship.

“I believe the DREAM Act would not be a silver bullet, and would still require state law and licensing practices to align,” he testified. “But at the present, we have the worst of all worlds, and no good pathways for the students who find themselves in this situation due to no fault or perfidy of their own.

If the DREAM Act is passed, he said he and other immigration advocates and scholars “will do everything we can to assist in its fair and generous implementation.

“These young adults are our family members, and deserve the same opportunities as our native-born children. Moreover, we need them and their talents, so evident in their many achievements in the face of prevailing headwinds.”

Click here to read Professor Olivas’ testimony before the U.S. Senate subcommittee.

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