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SALT LAKE CITY — Supporters of the DREAM Act came together Sunday to encourage Utah lawmakers in Washington to vote for the legislation, which is expected to go before the Senate this week.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would create a path to legalization and citizenship for children who were brought to the U.S. when they were young, and who serve the country via education or the armed forces for a minimum of two years. The bipartisan effort was originally pioneered by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and has been kicked around since 2001.
About 50 people gathered outside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on a snowy Sunday to rally and pray for the bill's success.
I'm here because I know what it's like to be undocumented. I know that undocumented students have good morals, want to contribute to this economy, want to contribute to this country.
"I'm here because I know what it's like to be undocumented. I know that undocumented students have good morals, want to contribute to this economy, want to contribute to this country," said Eduardo Reyes-Chavez.
Reyes-Chavez said he came to the U.S. and was undocumented for 10 years. He acquired permanent residency two years ago and is attending the University of Utah and majoring in political science. Reyes-Chavez said gaining residency and getting an education "changed my life completely," and he wants others like him to have the same opportunity.
"These are good individuals that I will give everything I can for them to have opportunity to go to school," he said.
Several of those attending the rally discussed the need for supporters to convey information accurately.
"The DREAM Act is not amnesty," said Ashley Edgette. "The DREAM Act is an opportunity for students, for youth that are willing to serve in the military to prove themselves so they can contribute to American society in the way that they deserve to."
Edgette said that should the bill pass, "dreamers" won't be allowed to collect federal grant funds like Pell Grants.
"These students have to go to college, they have to pay for college. They have to go through the trials of being in the military to even get the chance of non-permanent residency," she said.
Organizers hoped to motivate people to call Sen. Bob Bennett throughout the week to encourage him to vote for the legislation.
Carlos Gomar, a member of the "Salt Lake Dream Team" offered a prayer at the rally. He said he hoped legislators would support the legislation, and asked God to "bless their minds that they may be able to think with reason."