High school seniors from Queens made dozens of phone calls Wednesday, urging lawmakers to pass a bill that would give them green cards if they go to college or join the military.
The DREAM Act is expected to be re-introduced in Congress next week. Sponsors say it would help countless teens who were brought to the U.S. illegally.
"It’s a really important chance that we have right now," said Francisco Curiel,** 18, an undocumented senior at Pan American International High School in Elmhurst. "It’s hard for me. All of my friends are asking ‘Where are you going? How are your college applications going?’"
Curiel wants to be an accountant or a historian, but fears he won’t be able to advance beyond his part-time job as a deliveryman.
"I really like numbers – algebra, functions," said Curiel, who was born in Mexico. "Right now I’m taking pre-calculus."
Advocates say about 10,000 undocumented students graduate from New York City high schools every year.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he will take the measure to the floor as early as Monday – but the votes may not be there. The bill has been around for a decade and backers see this as a last chance to pass it before lame-duck Democrats leave their seats in January.
"Our hopes are up high in the air. We feel like we have the momentum," said Natalia Aristizabal, from Make the Road New York, a nonprofit group that hosted the teens yesterday and passed out flyers urging others to call. "I feel like this is it."
The uncertainty has 17-year-old Guadalupe Gracida** on edge.
"It makes me feel desperate and distressed not knowing," said Guadalupe, who has a 3.9 GPA at Pan American International High School.
The senior, who came from Mexico when she was 14, wants to be a psychologist. She’s afraid her immigration status might put her dreams out of reach.
"Not having papers doesn’t mean we don’t keep having hopes and dreams," she said.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also said he’s hopeful that the bill will pass, but acknowledged the need for more Republican support.
"Like we did with providing funding for increased border security this year, we are working to build bipartisan support to get this done in the Senate next week," he said.
The DREAM Act only applies to immigrants who arrive in the U.S. before age 16, spend at least two years in college or the military and have no serious criminal record. But many politicians oppose opening the door to any sort of amnesty for those who come here illegally.
**Francisco Curiel and Guadalupe Gracida are members of Make the Road New York (MRNY).