How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The Dream Act and the economy

Photo by sea turtle/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Senate Democrats speaking in support of a newly introduced version of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act this morning have been bringing up economic reasons for passing the proposed legislation, which would grant conditional legal status to young people brought here before age 16 if they go to college or enlist in the military.

During a Senate subcommittee hearing on the bill, California's Sen. Dianne Feinstein cited a report by the North American Integration and Development Center at UCLA, released late last year as the most recent version of the bill was being considered. The report concluded that if an estimated 825,000 now-undocumented youths who stand to benefit from the Dream Act were allowed to contribute to the economy, they would generate an estimated $1.4 trillion current dollars in income over 40 years. An excerpt from that report:

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Q&A: Catching up with Arthur Mkoyan, now in college, but still in immigration limbo

Last week, when college students invested in the Dream Act gathered around the country to anxiously watch the results of voting in the House and Senate, one of those on the edge of his seat was Arthur Mkoyan. The Armenian-American former high school valedictorian from Fresno made national headlines two summers ago when, as he prepared to graduate, he and his parents were arrested by immigration authorities. A deportation date was set for shortly after his graduation.

In June 2008, Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a private bill that granted them a temporary reprieve. Mkoyan is now 20 and in college. But his immigration status remains in limbo, since private bills rarely succeed. The family arrived on temporary visas when he was four years old. Mkoyan's father, a government worker in his native country, felt threatened after exposing corruption where he worked, and they applied for asylum. But the application was denied several years ago. Without further intervention, Mkoyan and his parents could again find themselves in deportation proceedings in the future.

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Student Steve Li being released from detention

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A week ago, it seemed there would be nothing stopping the deportation of San Francisco student Steve Li to Peru, where the 20-year-old Chinese-American was born while his family was living there. Now, a few days after the intervention of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein temporarily halted his removal from the country, he is being released from an Arizona detention center and is on his way home.

Inside Bay Area and other outlets reported earlier today that Li would soon be on his way back to San Francisco via Greyhound bus, according to his lawyer. From the story:

He will remain under supervision and must regularly report to immigration officers once he is back in the city, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice.

News of his release came hours after Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a private relief bill in Congress on behalf of Li. The bill, if enacted, would grant Li a green card allowing him to permanently reside in the United States. Congress rarely passes such bills, but the mere introduction of the private bill effectively halted Li's deportation.

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A last-minute reprieve for student Steve Li

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A photo of Steve Li, from a Facebook page set up by friends

San Francisco college student Steve Li will not be boarding a plane for Peru today as planned, his deportation stalled following a last-minute reprieve.

Late yesterday afternoon, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that while the 20-year-old Chinese-American nursing student remains in custody at an immigrant detention center in Arizona, his Monday deportation to Peru was put off. Li's attorney Sin Yen Ling told the Chronicle that an immigration officer advised her of the change, but did not provide her with details as to why or what happens next.

From the story:

"Why? I don't know," said Ling, whose client is at a detention center in Florence, Ariz. "In terms of when he's going to be put on a plane, I don't know that either. They wouldn't provide me with additional information but I do think it has a lot to do with the advocacy work that's been happening."

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