Leahy Statement On The Need To Pass The DREAM Act

We are a nation of immigrants.  That should be an obvious point, but it bears repeating at a time when our president sees political advantage in trafficking in xenophobic scapegoating.  Unless you are Native American, you come from a line of people who come from somewhere else.  Indeed that simple fact is an integral part of the American story.                            

We are also a Nation that believes that anything is possible.  Our ancestors and relatives journeyed here because, in America, where you come from does not determine what you can accomplish.  In this great country, as long as you work hard and play by the rules, you can achieve your dreams.  That itself is the American Dream.                                                                           

No single group of people embodies these ideals more than our Nation’s DREAMers.  DREAMers grew up in this country; they were brought here as children.  They seek only the opportunity to contribute to our Nation and to be legally recognized as the Americans that they are.  DREAMers are our neighbors, our teachers, and our first responders.   

Nearly a thousand DREAMers serve in our armed forces, risking their lives to defend the only country they have ever known as home. We cannot in good faith claim to care about the American Dream if we neglect to protect the very people who are living it.

Take, for example, Dr. Juan Conde, a DACA recipient and a resident of Vermont.  Dr. Conde was born in Mexico and brought to the United States as a child by his mother.  In 2007, his mother was tragically taken by cancer.  Showing remarkable courage and determination for a young man, this tragedy inspired Dr. Conde to find a way to help cancer patients like his mother.  Yet he was unable to become an oncologist due to his immigration status.  So instead he decided to obtain a Ph.D. in cancer research from the University of Texas.                 

But Dr. Conde wanted to treat cancer patients, not just study the disease.  After receiving DACA status in 2012, he was empowered to pursue his medical degree.  And he is currently a medical student at University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. 

Dr. Conde hopes to spend his life in the United States treating cancer patients and helping to find a cure for the disease.  My hope is that we can make that happen, not just for Dr. Conde but for every other DREAMer.  There are almost 800,000 DREAMers like Dr. Conde, all of whom have just as much potential to make our communities and our country truly great.  To deny them these opportunities because they were brought here as children is as senseless as it is cruel.    

Yet that is the decision the president made.  He could have worked with Congress to find a permanent solution for DREAMers while leaving DACA protections in place.  Instead, he cast them aside.  And his administration has made absurd, nonfactual, and offensive arguments in support of that decision ever since.  When Attorney General Sessions announced that DACA was being terminated, he argued that the program was an example of the Obama administration’s repeated failure to enforce our immigration laws.  He argued that such failure caused crime, violence, and even terrorism.  During Senate Judiciary Committee hearings I pressed both the Attorney General and his Department on this point – to name just one DREAMer who was involved in terrorist activity.  Of course they could not.  But apparently fear mongering is more effective than acknowledging simple truths.                                                                

By definition, DREAMers are law-abiding. They seek nothing more than to contribute to our country.  If the president refuses to stand with DREAMers, then Congress must.  We have done it before in the Senate.  Four years ago, 68 Senators – Democrats and Republicans – voted for comprehensive immigration reform legislation that I managed on the Senate floor.  That legislation included key protections for DREAMers, including an expedited pathway to citizenship.  It is time for the Senate to act again now.  And for the House to follow suit.  The future of DREAMers – and the fate of the American Dream itself – lies in our hands. 

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