Don't Ask, Don't Tell isn't the only law whose crucial vote Congress canned today. Also rolled into the military bill Republicans blocked this afternoon is the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for people who were brought to the US illegally before they were 15 and graduate from American high schools.
For nearly two decades, Hector Lopez was a regular Portlander. He grew up here, graduating from Rex Putnam High School, where he was student body president, and enrolling in Clackamas Community College.
Then, three weeks ago, he suddenly became the poster child for the DREAM Act. Lopez's parents had illegally brought him to the US from Mexico when he was a month and a half old. Though he had clean criminal record, there was a standing deportation order for Lopez and immigration enforcement agents arrested him as he left his home in Milwaukie in late August, according to his lawyer, Siovhan Sheridan-Ayala. Within a week, he'd been deported to Mexico.
Lopez spoke to reporters this morning via speakerphone from Mexico City at a Portland State University press conference to put pressure on legislators to support the DREAM Act. Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden support the measure, but Oregon Congressman Pete Defazio opposes it.
Sheridan-Ayala says she's seen about 100 cases similar to Hector's during her six years as an immigration attorney in Portland and Seattle. "I see kids brought here who are young who have no options to immigrate legally all the time," says Sheridan-Ayala. Sheridan-Ayala says she doesn't know what happens to many of the families she speaks with whose children have no way to become citizens. "I just tell them, 'I'm not able to help you with the ways the laws are written right now.'"
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