U. students seek DREAM Act passage

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SALT LAKE CITY — Illegal-immigrant students at the University of Utah called Friday for the state's senators to help pass the DREAM Act this year, which would allow children of illegal-immigrant parents a pathway to citizenship by attending college.

"These young people are Americans in every way but their citizenship, and it helps no one to keep them undocumented," said Karen Crompton, executive director of Voices for Utah Children at a press conference and rally at the university.

These young people are Americans in every way but their citizenship, and it helps no one to keep them undocumented.

–Karen Crompton

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act applies to children of illegal-immigrant parents who entered the country before age 16.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, first introduced a version of the bill in 2001 — saying most of the young people it would help had no choice on whether to enter the country illegally. Many do not remember their home countries. Hatch was attacked at the time by many fellow Republicans who said the proposal would create an amnesty program, and potentially attract more illegal immigrants to come here.

The DREAM Act has changed over the years, and Hatch is no longer a co-sponsor of it. Hatch declined repeated requests for an interview.

Students at the rally on Friday held signs asking Hatch and Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, to pass the bill now.

"It is time to pass the DREAM Act. It is time for our generation to take responsibility for all of America's children — whether they were born here or came in innocence," said Theresa Martinez, a sociology professor at the university.

John Pearson, student body vice president, noted that the student assembly passed a resolution in support of the act earlier this week. The student group also supports a Utah law that allows children of illegal immigrants who graduate from a Utah high school to pay in-state tuition in college. That law is often a target for repeal in the Legislature.

Jose Torres-Don with the United We Dream Network, a national student group that seeks improved access to higher education for all people, thanked the student assembly saying, "Immigrant youth are fighting for survival in the only country they know as home."

E-mail: lee@desnews.com

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