Latin American Law Student Association Panel Discussion Looks at DREAM Act Legislation
Web Editor - Published: October 13, 2011

On Wednesday, October 12th, an audience of students, faculty, staff, and the public witnessed a thought provoking consideration of the DREAM Act that touched on a number of arguments both in favor of and against passage of the act.

Put together by the Latin American Law Student Association (LALSA), “The Dream Act: Its Prospect and Implications” took place in the Ruby R. Vale Moot Courtroom on the Delaware campus. FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) Research Director Eric Ruark and immigration attorneys David Bennion and Peter Gonzales joined Cesar Marroquin – an undocumented college student whose parents brought him to the United States from Peru when he was 9 years old – on the panel. Professor Erin Daly served as moderator for the evening.

The program opened with an introduction and a short history of the proposed DREAM Act legislation from LALSA President Claudia Bustamante.

First introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001, the DREAM ACT – The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors – would provide conditional permanent U.S. residency to certain undocumented young people who arrived in the U.S. as minors, have demonstrated good moral character, graduated from a U.S. high school, and have lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment. The most recent version of the potential legislation was reintroduced on May 11, 2011.

Each panelist had an opportunity for a short presentation followed by a short period for questions from the audience, and then the entire panel engaged in a lengthy question and answer session with the audience.

David Bennion, Esq. spoke first, and his presentation included a short video featuring young people involved in the undocumented youth movement. He compared the undocumented youth movement to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and spoke briefly during the question and answer segment about how people could get involved as legal advocates.

Peter Gonzales spoke about his work as an immigration attorney, saying, “It can be a very rewarding practice when you help people achieve what they were looking for,” but added, “Most of the immigration system doesn’t really make sense. It’s very frustrating.”

FAIR Research Director Eric Ruark spoke next, focusing on the broader context of immigration reform and the political aspects of the DREAM Act. He noted that he opposed the DREAM Act and did not think it could pass in the current political environment, but described political attempts to dodge the issue as “ a shame,” adding, “I understand that it’s important to a lot of people.”

Ruark argued that the DREAM Act needed to be looked at in the context of comprehensive immigration reform and sustainability. He also stressed the “Need to move beyond personal stories,” concluding, “We need to ask ourselves what is in the best interest of the United States.”

Speaking last, Cesar Marroquin shared his personal story. He spoke of his desire to become a Navy SEAL, but relayed that he could not enter the Navy because he lacked a Social Security Number. While he was accepted to both Penn State and Drexel, Cesar relied on bad advice and believed that his status would prevent him from going to college. Now a student at Montgomery County Community College, he is an active participant in the undocumented youth movement DreamActivist Pennsylvania.

Cesar also spoke briefly about his parents, who came to the United States on work visas that have since expired, saying, “I don’t blame my parents for bringing me to the United States. If I had kids of my own, I would have done the same thing.”

He concluded by saying, “I’m an American like every one of you, and I deserve an opportunity to live a better life and join the military.”

The lively question and answer session touched on a number of topics ranging from what a version of the DREAM Act that could pass might look like to how to balance allowing productive immigrants into the country while keeping the drug cartels and other criminals out.

The event concluded with LALSA Vice President Dominique Diazgranados thanking the speakers, who were each presented with appreciation awards for their participation.