This story was originally reported for WNYC Radio.
NEW YORK—About 50 immigration advocates rallied in Times Square on Monday afternoon to urge the New York congressional delegation to support the federal DREAM Act. The bill would allow young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and have lived here for five years to legalize their status by going to college or joining the military for two years.
Eighteen year old Melissa Garcia-Velez recalled her devastation as a junior in high school when she learned she was ineligible for most college financial aid programs because she’s not documented.
“It killed me, because America is supposed to be this land of democracy telling that you are free, but then they were limiting me in my education and my desire to keep learning.”
Twenty-one year old Osman Canales immigrated legally from El Salvador when he was ten years old and is attending Suffolk Community College on Long Island. But he says that he watched many of the kids he grew up with get stuck in low-end, under-the-table jobs, because they couldn’t afford college or work legally.
“Most of them are you know, working in restaurants, washing dishes, others are cleaning, custodians, doing jobs that they could do instead of going to college, cause they can’t afford it. So they just found a job and are working, waiting for the Dream Act to pass.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to bring the DREAM Act to a vote in the lame duck session and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is expected to raise it in the House soon after. Advocates are hoping for a vote as soon as possible, because they’re doubtful the bill could pass in the Republican-controlled House of the 112th Congress.