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Mississippi Immigrants Rights Advocates Disappointed by ‘DREAM Act’ Vote

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 18 Dec 2010 07:24am | comments
Soletai Arellano was brought to the US illegally when she was 9. She is now a citizen.

Advocates for illegal immigrants in Mississippi are expressing disappointment over the failure of the DREAM act. The act that would have provided a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the US as children. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports.

On the day before the vote, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the bill a vital part of keeping our nation's economy globally competitive.

"The entrepreneurship of these young people, at least first through the chance to go to college and then the workforce. Will not just chance the fortunes of them, their families and their communities, but will be a tremendous benefit to the country," Duncan said.

The bill would have required these immigrants to have entered the country before they were 16 and complete some college or military service in order to apply for citizenship.

Opponents of the law labeled it Amnesty and said it would have rewarded illegal behavior. On Saturday, the bill failed to get the 60 votes it needed to end debate and come up for a final vote. Both Mississippi Senators voted against the law.

On the second floor of a small office building in Jackson, Soletai Arellano watched the vote.

"It really bothers me because, whenever your parents bring you to the United States you are just a teenager and you don't know how the immigration system works. So, when you come here you go to school and finish high school. And when you want to go to college suddenly you are not able to go because you don't have a social security number, you are not legal," Arellano said.

Arellano was 9-years when her parents left Mexico and brought her illegally to the United States. She went to school in the U-S and eventually earned residence and recently, her citizenship. Now she works as an organizer with the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance to help other families get their citizenship.

She says those families, and their children, follow the immigration debate closely and are disappointed by the vote.

"They are just brought the same way I was brought, by our parents. And we didn't have a choice. They didn't make us decide if we wanted to stay there or if we wanted to come, it was their choice. And that is why most of the kids are here and they are undocumented is because of our parents," Arellano said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that up to half a million illegal immigrants would have been affected by this law. While 6 Senate Democrats voted against it, Republicans voiced the loudest opposition and with their increased influence in the congress, the bill is unlikely to come up again in the next two years.

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Soletai Arellano was brought to the US illegally when she was 9. She is now a citizen.


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