Dick Durbin talks immigration reform, student activists protest for DREAM 30
Senator Dick Durbin (SFS ’66, L ’69), the Senate Majority Whip, spoke in Gaston Hall on Tuesday evening about his plans for comprehensive immigration reform. As chief proponent of the DREAM Act since he himself introduced the bill in 2001, Durbin has a long history of fighting in the Senate for the rights of undocumented immigrants.
Earlier this year, Durbin helped form a bipartisan group of Senators known as the “Gang of Eight” which hammered out a comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in late June, but has been held up in the Republican-led House ever since.
“After a long struggle, we are almost there,” said Durbin, who voiced criticism for Rep. John Boehner‘s (R-Ohio) hindering of the bill. He explained that the House Majority Leader will not hold a vote for the bill unless he knows a majority of House Republicans will support it.
Durbin emphasized the damaging “brain drain” effect that the draconian immigration system facilitates, exemplified by the story of recent Georgetown grad Juan Gomez (MSB ’11). Gomez graduated magna cum laude and took a job in New York with JP Morgan Chase, but unfortunately his work permit expired this past May. He now works for an investment firm in São Paolo, Brazil, likely never to return to the U.S.
Durbin encouraged students to take part in youth activism supporting immigration reform, comparing it to the civil rights movement of the 60s. “In every instance, the great social change movements were energized by students, and this one is no different,” he said.
Towards the end of the student question-and-answer time, a group of three youth activists demonstrated the very verve Durbin described. Having been denied a chance to ask a question in the official session, they spoke up out of turn during Dr. Susan Martin‘s closing remarks.
The group demanded an answer for how Durbin could ignore the cause of the DREAM 30, a group of undocumented people who surrendered themselves to U.S. border authorities and have been held while their applications for asylum are reviewed. The three activists held up a poster with the faces of the DREAM 30.
Durbin chose to field the question anyway. “I can’t change the fact that they chose to go through the asylum process,” he said. He explained that the asylum process is generally a more difficult path to take for undocumented immigrants to become officially recognized.
For now, Durbin will have to do his best to keep pushing the cause of immigration reform in Congress.
Photo: Georgetown Voice