How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

A streamlined DREAM Act moves forward

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

DREAM Act supporters at a Los Angeles rally in September, after a defense bill carrying the measure failed to win enough votes in the Senate. It was later reintroduced as a stand-alone bill.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association sent a notice to its members this morning with details of a tighter, more restrictive version of the DREAM Act introduced in the Senate last night.

From the notice, which has now been posted on the AILA website:

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


A DREAM Act vote is coming, but when?

Photo courtesy of Cyndi Bendezu

Student protesters at a DREAM Act "die-in" in downtown Los Angeles, November 17, 2010

Speculation that the U.S. House of Representatives might take up the DREAM Act early this week - even as early as today, as some outlets had reported - turned out to be a bit premature.

The earliest date now being discussed for a possible House vote on the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is this coming Thursday, said Frank Sharry, executive director of the Washington, D.C. immigration advocacy group America's Voice, which has been following the proposed legislation closely.

It's also likely that a House vote could take longer, Sharry said in a phone interview today. A blurb two weeks ago on CapitolWirePR cited New York Democratic Rep. Nydia Velasquez as saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had announced a tentative vote date of Nov. 29.

That date was a misquote, Sharry said. However, the hope of advocates is still that the House will vote on the measure first, he said, as this could help pave the way for success in the Senate. While there still no set date for a Senate vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to take up the measure in the lame duck session. The DREAM Act would provide access to legal status for qualifying young people who attend college or enlist in the military.


Quote of the moment: The Reid DREAM Act tweet

"I will move the DREAM Act as a standalone bill in the lame duck. It's good for the economy & Pentagon says good for natl security."

- A tweet from @SenatorReid, posted this afternoon

The tweet came from a verified account of the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada. The advocacy group America's Voice has posted on its website that a Senate vote on the DREAM Act, proposed legislation that would create a path to legal status for undocumented youths who attend college or join the military, is likely to occur after the Thanksgiving break.

A short blurb on the CapitolWirePR site yesterday afternoon noted that during a speech before Latino political leaders yesterday, New York Democratic Rep. Nydia Velasquez announced that House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi had announced a tentative vote date of Nov. 29.


A Chinese-American student's pending deportation to Peru


Steve Li in a photo from a Facebook page set up by friends

A story that has been making the rounds in recent days is that of Steve Li, a 20-year-old Chinese-American college student from San Francisco who is being held in an Arizona immigrant detention center awaiting his imminent deportation to Peru.

The destination seems baffling at first. Here's the backstory: Li's parents left China for Peru before he was born. He was born in Peru and lived there as a child until his parents left for the United States, fed up with political instability there. They applied for asylum here but their application was denied. At the time they arrived in the United States, Li was 12 years old.

While deportation cases involving American-raised young people are sadly common, Li's case is unusual in that his parents, who were temporarily detained then released on electronic monitoring, would be deported to China permitting their native country takes them back. But because they had their child in Peru, where Li has no friends or family, he is considered a Peruvian national.


Quote of the moment: A Latino first-time voter on offensive campaign ads

“That was the final straw. She was depicting me as a gang member. I served seven years in the Marine Corps.”

- Gilberto Ramirez, a Reno concrete worker and first-time voter quoted in the Las Vegas Sun regarding defeated Senate candidate Sharron Angle's campaign ads

The Sun and various other news outlets have reported on just how critically decisive the Latino vote was in the re-election of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid captured the support of 90 percent of Nevada's Latino voters, who turned out in record numbers - some, like recently-naturalized citizen Ramirez, incensed by a series of much-criticized campaign ads from Reid's Republican opponent Sharron Angle.

Perhaps the Angle ad that drew the most ire was one called "The Wave," in which images of young Latino-looking men appeared with a voiceover that began: “Waves of illegal aliens streaming across our border, joining violent gangs, forcing families to live in fear...”