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New Yorkers Gather for Candlelight Vigil for DREAM Act

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New York  (Tuesday, December 7, 2010)

New Yorkers Gather for Candlelight Vigil for DREAM Act

Young People Highlight Economic Imperative for DREAM Act, Present Giant Check of $2.3 Billion Dollars to the United States of America

On the cusp on the anticipated vote on the DREAM act, a diverse group of individuals, students, community activists, faith leaders, and members of the New York Immigration Coalition came together to urge the legislation’s passage and highlight the moral and economic imperatives to the legislation law at an Interfaith Candlelight Vigil on Tuesday evening at St. Teresa’s Church in Manhattan.

Presenting a giant, mock check measuring 3 x 6 feet for the amount of $2.3 billion dollars, several youth organizers explained that this would be the economic contribution if the Dream Act becomes law. Faith leaders stood side by side the young people, highlighting the moral obligation that the nation has to providing opportunities for youth.

The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for young people who were brought to the US as children, are undocumented, and have graduated from high school. They would have to meet certain criteria—including attending college or serving in the military, and demonstrating good moral character—to qualify.

According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), 825,000 students nationally would be eligible to obtain permanent legal status through the DREAM Act. New York State ranks fourth in the nation in terms of the number of potential DREAM Act beneficiaries, with approximately 146,000 young New Yorkers positively affected by its passage. A recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate of the DREAM Act shows that the legislation would increase revenues by $2.3 billion and would reduce deficits by about $1.4 billion in the next 9 years.

Kevin Kang, youth organizer at MinKwon Center for Community Action, said, “By investing in the youth of this country, Congress is also investing in the future prosperity of the American economy. If Congress fails to pass the DREAM Act, they would essentially be rejecting $2.3 billion in potential revenues. All these young people want is to be contributing members of this society.”

“I speak on behalf of my friends and fellow youth who aren’t able to come out of the shadows,” said Adriana Mendoza, Youth Leader at La Unión. “It’s a shame that hard-working young people who could bring so much to this country are forced to live in fear. Congress has a chance to change this and we hope that they will take the opportunity this week to do so.”

“The passage of the DREAM Act would provide great opportunities for young people like me,” said Dennisse, youth group member of St. Teresa’s Parish. “We have dedicated years of organizing to push the DREAM Act and now is the time to pass it. We want to go to college, we want to serve in the military, and we want to give back to this country which is our home. It is time to stop punishing young people for decisions that we did not make.”

“I have a bachelor’s degree in math and a master’s degree in education, and my passion is teaching,” said Carlos from New Immigrant Community Empowerment. “I am hard-working and I have so much to contribute to this country. By passing the DREAM Act, the United States will be investing in the talent of young people like me who will further the economic growth of this country.”

"In this period before the vote, every phone call to Congress counts. Every call reaffirms our commitment to justice for immigrant youth,” said Christina Baal, Immigrant Advocacy Field Coordinator at the New York Immigration Coalition. “Young and old, documented and undocumented, from all ethnic backgrounds and from every part of our state, no one needs to be afraid to call the offices of congress and make their voices heard.”

“We offer prayers in support of the young people among us who are undocumented and wish only to contribute to American society,” said Rabbi Michael E. Feinberg, Executive Director of the Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition. “Instead of breeding a culture of fear, it is urgent that we make it safe for this nation’s young people to fulfill the potential as workers and leaders. We ask that Congress allow these young people to come out of the shadows and live full, productive lives. This benefits all Americans and makes this nation what it is.”

Dr. Diane Steinman, co-chair, New York State Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform, said, " We come together to remind New Yorkers and Americans of the moral underpinning of our nation and its many faith communities - the belief that all of us are called to act with justice, fairness, generosity and compassion – and that this belief requires Congress to reform our nation’s unjust, inhumane immigration system. This week, our representatives in Congress and the Senate have a choice: they can be true to these values, and vote yes on DREAM, or they can vote no, and play politics with the lives of undocumented young people who were brought here as children by their undocumented parents.”

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Video created and provided by: Megan Izen, CUNY Journalism Graduate Student

 

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