By Ned Barnett, The American Independent
North Carolina faith leaders today called on Congress to pass the DREAM Act to provide opportunities for education and citizenship to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
The faith leaders’ statement issued through the NC Council of Churches is part of a national push led by President Obama to get the bill through during the lame-duck session. The current Democratic majority in both chambers might muster the votes for its passage. Republicans, who will take control of the House in January, generally oppose the bill.
The DREAM Act would allow undocumented immigrants under 36 who were brought into the U.S. before age 16 and have finished high school to earn the right to stay by serving in the military or attending college for two years.
A House vote on the DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, could come this week. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he will bring the bill up for a vote in December.
Proponents of the bill estimate that approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools annually, but are ineligible for financial aid for college, have difficulty entering the military and face uncertain futures in the country in which they came of age.
In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan opposes the DREAM Act as a free-standing bill. She thinks the changes for minors should be part of a broader immigration reform bill.
Republican Sen. Richard Burr’s spokesman David Ward said the senator opposes the bill.
“The DREAM Act would allow those who have entered into our country illegally to receive tuition benefits and to short-cut the immigration process,” Ward said. “Senator Burr does not believe it is appropriate to reward those who are in this country illegally at the expense of those who have followed the rules.”
Rev. George Reed, executive director of the NC Council of Churches, said in a press release accompanying the statement:
“It is important that faith leaders are speaking up for all God’s children, particularly those who may not have a voice themselves. Advocates for the DREAM Act, including those who feel a biblical imperative to welcome the stranger and help the least of these, want to provide young people with an opportunity for success that benefits them and our nation as a whole.”
The statement’s signers include leaders from the following denominations: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, General Baptist State Convention, Metropolitan Community Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, and pastors of six Council member congregations. Rev. Sam Roberson, General Presbyter/Stated Clerk for the Presbytery of Charlotte, was instrumental in coordinating this interdenominational effort. In September, North Carolina’s two Catholic bishops issued a similar statement in strong support of the DREAM act.
The DREAM Act is a bipartisan bill that provides a clear, earned path to citizenship for students who are currently undocumented. Each year, approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school, many at the top of their classes, but cannot go to college, join the military, work, or otherwise pursue their dreams. Caught in a system where there is little, if any, means for legalizing their status, these smart, hard-working kids face an uncertain future. Having already been educated through the public school system, the loss of potential, productivity, and hope for these individuals is also a great loss for this country.