The DREAM Act offers hard-working students a path to citizenship (Rep. Rubén Hinojosa)

The reason I am posing these questions is because this week the U.S. Senate will be voting on the Defense Authorization Act. A proposed amendment to that Act will be the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which is sponsored by Senators Dick DurbinDick DurbinSupreme Court limps to finish Senate Dems link court fight to Congressional Baseball Game Dems: Immigration decision will 'energize' Hispanic voters MORE (D-IL) and Richard Lugar (R-IN).

The DREAM Act focuses on children who entered the country illegally before they were 16 years old and who have lived here for five years or more. It is designed to offer these hard-working undocumented students a path to legalization and citizenship in the United States, if they attend and graduate college or fulfill their service in our military forces. Those children who don’t fulfill these requirements will be subject to deportation.

In my District 15 of South Texas, I have had the opportunity to hear from many of our undocumented students who were brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were very young. In many cases these children are doing quite well in school. They know no other home but the United States of America. These children are caught in a legal and political situation that they knew nothing about, all the while living here and making life-long friends and good grades in school, while pledging their allegiance to the United States of America every day.

This Monday I received an email from a student in my district who is at the top of his class at the University of Texas-Pan American. This student says he is resigning his position on the Student Senate. His brother has just been deported to Mexico and now this student is being told he will be deported as well. He has been told that once he is deported to Mexico, he will be stripped of his college credits, which he worked so hard to earn here in the United States.

This is just one example of what I am talking about. The situation described in that e-mail is clearly unfair. Undocumented students have the potential to become doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, scientists, mathematicians, engineers and even members of Congress. They can contribute to our nation’s competitiveness in our global economy.

I believe in the DREAM Act because it identifies the almost 700,000 children who want to make a contribution to our nation. When we consider the alternatives that many of these children face, such as joining gangs, dropping out of school or ending up in prison, we should instead do what we can to help these children who are following the rules, volunteering in their communities and striving to achieve their own American Dream.

They are an asset to our country and we should not turn our backs on them. This country is made up of so many immigrants who over the centuries worked hard to earn their way and respect in this country, though they faced prejudice, racism and religious persecution. These immigrant children are already showing us what they have done, and now they want to show us what more they can do to contribute to our great country. It’s a country they consider theirs as well. The U.S.A. is home to them.

I am a co-sponsor of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill and believe that ultimately we need to address every aspect of our immigration policies if we are to solve the problem. In my border district, we understand that there are undocumented immigrants who contribute to our economy and to our nation as a whole and then of course there are the other elements who are involved in the world of crime and are not welcome.

We should be focusing the scarce resources of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on finding criminals, while creating a rational legalization process to deal with those hard-working immigrants who only want to contribute to our economy. Until that day, we should not be losing these bright young minds who could be the key to finding the cure for cancer or developing the next technological breakthrough that will catapult our nation to the global forefront.

I am asking my colleagues to vote yes for the Dream Act. I say we should not turn away these children who offer so much promise. We should help them achieve their dreams, the same dreams we would want for our own children. So I ask the question again, “What would you want for your children?”

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