Citing Student Detention, University Pushes Immigration Bill

Officials from a Catholic university in Miami plan to hold a press conference on Tuesday designed to pressure lawmakers to pass legislation designed to provide legal residency status for children of illegal immigrants.

In their support for the DREAM Act, officials from St. Thomas University cite the recent detention of one of its students by the United States Border Patrol.

University officials hope their press conference will convince Americans to urge lawmakers to vote for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2009 (DREAM ACT). The DREAM Act would provide legal status and educational opportunities to immigrant youngsters who entered the United States as minor children. The legislation applies to students in both public and private schools, including those attending Catholic schools.

The current version would provide “conditional” green cards to as many as 2.1 million people who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents when they were under the age of 16. It would allow them to work, attend college and serve in the military. It also would put them on a path to citizenship.

The DREAM Act is expected to come up for a vote this week. Although Republicans have supported the legislation in the past, they filibustered it in September when it was included as part of the larger defense authorization bill.

St. Thomas University officials cite the experience of one its students on November 19.

A member of the school’s soccer team was driving independently from the team to Maine for the soccer national championships. He was stopped and detained by the Border Patrol for not having documentation for his legal presence in the United States, according to the university.

“In consultation with the University’s Senior Staff and the student’s family, I made the decision to assist the student in whatever way possible in an attempt to secure his release and return to Miami,” says St. Thomas President Franklyn Casale. “The University sent one of the attorneys of its Human Rights Institute to Portland, Jennifer Volmar, where the student was detained. The Institute’s Director, Christine Reis, has been in constant communication with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement personnel in Maine and pursued various legal options to secure his release.”

The student will be granted a stay of deportation until June, when he is expected to graduate, Casale says.

The unnamed student has returned to Miami and will be present at the press conference, Casale adds. “The University also thanks Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for her ongoing support towards a successful outcome,” he says.

The university also hopes to spur other college students to action, joining St. Thomas students’ signature drive to petition Congress members to pass the Dream Act.

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.


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