The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on DREAMers. Rep Raul Labrador is at right. Photo/AP Images

As DREAMers plead for citizenship in immigration hearing, stark divide among House members

The stark debate over immigration – and more specifically the way to address DREAMers brought to this country as undocumented children – was in stark display in a House Judiciary Committee hearing today.  DREAMers made a case before a very diverse group of House members, some whom advocated for DREAMers and a path to citizenship, and those who stressed there are laws, and citizenship is not a given under U.S. law but a privilege, as Congressman Raul Labrador said.

“There is no right to citizenship – it’s something we need to discuss,” said the Idaho Republican.

The committee is debating how it crafts legislation for DREAMers brought here as children.  The Senate immigraton reform bill has a fast track for citizenship for DREAMers.  House members are quite divided on the issue.

The profound differences were evident following Iowa Congressman Steve King’s taped interview with Newsmax, where he stated that for every 1 DREAMer valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there “that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.”

Today at the hearing, Cuban-American Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia responded to Congressman King’s remarks, saying they were “beneath the dignity of this body and this country.”

Illinois Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez, one of the main proponents of the Dream Act and one of the legislators working on a bipartisan bill, said at the hearing today, “If the Republican Majority is starting with the DREAMers because that is as far as you are willing to go in terms of legal status for undocumented immigrants, I say thank you for coming this far, because even a small step in the right direction is the first step in any good faith negotiation.  It says a compromise may be within reach, ” said Gutierrez.   But then he added, “But let me be absolutely crystal clear and unequivocal.  Legalizing only the DREAMers is not enough.”

One of those who testified today was Pamela Rivera, a young Latina pursuing a Master’s degree who was born in the U.S.  Her sister Evelyn, however, was born in Colombia and brought here as a child, and is undocumented, and their mother was deported.    For her family and for her sister, “the American dream has been bittersweet,” said Rivera, saying that for Evelyn, “this is the only home she knows.”

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