Tereza and Her Family’s Story
I first met Tereza Lee and her family over a decade ago. Tereza, whose family is originally from Korea, was brought to Chicago by her parents at the age of two. As her parents worked night and day to support the family, Tereza grew up to be an excellent student and an even more impressive pianist. When the time came for her to attend college, Tereza got some sad news.
Tereza’s parents never applied for her to become a citizen, which meant she did not have legal status. At the time, the INS told my office that Tereza’s only option was to leave the United States for 10 years. Then, and only then, could she attempt to return to the U.S. and apply for citizenship.
Tereza’s story, and many others like it, inspired me to write and introduce the DREAM Act 13 years ago. The bill would give immigrant students, known as Dreamers, the opportunity to earn their citizenship. It would keep young, talented students here in America, where they grew up, so they can contribute to the only place they’ve called home.
June 27, 2013
One of the few highlights of the past few years in Congress was on June 27, 2013. On that day, the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation on a strong bipartisan 68-32 vote. The DREAM Act was included in that bill and I was proud to be part of the “Gang of 8” Democrats and Republicans who spent months negotiating and drafting it.
Unfortunately, the House of Representatives has refused to call the comprehensive immigration reform bill for a vote, even to this day. Every attempt to pass this important bill has been met by another roadblock. Millions of undocumented people have been left to live in the shadows, afraid of being deported and having their families torn apart. This hurts our national security and our economy. Without a solution coming from Congress, something had to be done to solve a problem House Republicans refused to address.
Last month, President Obama took action to address our broken immigration system and I applaud him for doing so. He announced an executive order expanding a 2012 program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The program put a hold on the deportations of Dreamers and allowed them to live and work legally in America on a temporary basis. Simply put, it was a huge success.
Now, this program will apply to people who are the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, who have worked in the U.S. for at least 5 years, who have not committed any serious crimes, and do not pose any threat to our safety. It will allow millions of hard-working immigrants to contribute more fully to our country.
The President’s approach will make us safer, stronger nation by bringing millions of immigrants out of the shadows to register with the government and undergo rigorous law enforcement and national security background checks. It will also help our economy and American workers by bringing undocumented workers into the legal workforce, eliminating the unfair competition of the underground economy.
Leaders in the Illinois business community have thanked the president for his action. Dan Costello, President of Home Run Inn Restaurant Group, called"the presidents executive order, “a welcomed relief to businesses like mine and to hard-working families who have yearned to thrive and live without fear.” The Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC) said the President’s executive action was a, “welcomed relief to millions of families living in fear, businesses disrupted due to unnecessary deportations, and a national security compromised because we currently do not know who is in our country and for what purpose.”
The American people want their government to solve problems. Because Congress has failed to reform our immigration system, the President had no choice but use his authority under the law to improve our economy, security and keep families together. America is, and always will be, a nation of immigrants. The President’s action is a good first step, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to get comprehensive immigration reform passed. We owe it to families like Tereza’s and millions more like them.
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Sent from the office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin