Washington About 30 undocumented students and community activists on Tuesday presented to the U.S. Congress symbolic checks for $2.3 billion that, they said, would flow into the public coffers if the DREAM Act** is approved.
The students, who come from 20 states, presented copies of the checks to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) to emphasize the urgency for undocumented youths of approving the measure.
The group, part of a national campaign supporting the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, served as a counterweight to a conservative organization also present in the Capitol building on Tuesday and opposed to the measure.
The bill allows the legalization of people who illegally entered the United States before they turned 16 years old, who have been here for less than five years and who complete at least two years at a university or enlist in the military, among other requirements.
"We’ve come to deliver these checks to legislators, which represent the economic benefit of the DREAM Act. We’re here to contribute to this country that has seen us grow up," Erica Andiola, a 23-year-old graduate of Arizona State University, told Efe.
"If they give me the chance, I know I can contribute to society, to my community. Legalization and security can go together" and the solution is not "to put up walls" along the border, she said.
Natalia Aristizabal,** with the United We Dream group, told Efe that the approval of the DREAM Act would contribute $2.3 billion to the U.S. economy and would help reduce the fiscal deficit, according to official calculations.
The members of the group, who met with one of Hutchison’s advisors, said that they will continue their activism until they achieve the approval of the DREAM Act, which Congress will begin debating on Wednesday prior to voting upon it.
Activists with the League of United Latin American Citizens brought to the halls of Congress bags filled with letters supporting the measure, which is co-sponsored by 39 senators and 128 members of the House of Representatives.
Simultaneously, the Pentagon and the White House also presented a common front in favor of the DREAM Act during a telephone conference with reporters.
"As we look at our force now for the future, bringing in talented people in this cyclical nature of how our recruiting business goes is significant," Under Secretary of Defense Dr. Clifford Stanley said.
Meanwhile, the White House director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Cecilia Muñoz, said that – contrary to Republican accusations – the DREAM Act is "very, very far from amnesty" because participants "have to comply with a series of requirements."
It is calculated that each year about 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school but see their academic careers cut short due to lack of the proper immigration documents.
Republicans and allied conservative groups insist that the measure rewards illegal immigration and increases the burden on taxpayers.
Activists with the conservative group Progressives for Immigration Reform, or PIR, said in the Capitol that the DREAM Act is a "bad idea" while the United States is facing a high unemployment rate.
"This is rewarding illegal conduct … Our children are the ones who are suffering from unemployment, and they would be competing for jobs with people who are not supposed to be in this country," Carmen Perez Morales, a Puerto Rican activist with PIR, told Efe.
Other pro-immigrant organizations, religious leaders and union activists will hold a vigil Tuesday night in Los Angeles supporting the measure.
The city’s Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Roger Mahony, and AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Maria Elena Durazo will participate in the vigil.
**Natalia Aristizabal is the DREAM Act organizer at Make the Road New York (MRNY).