Martha's story sounded familiar to me since I have known several young people in her position - kids that work hard despite being fairly sure that they will never be able to attain the types of jobs that their intellects would earn them, had they the proper paperwork. Yet, there might be a possible solution, if we had the political will to make things better for these kids. We could pass the DREAM Act.
The DREM Act (aka. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) is the latest incarnation of a series of bills that seek to give some legal status to "young people who were brought to the U.S. years ago as undocumented immigrant children who have since grown up here, stayed in school, and kept out of trouble" and wish to attend college or join the U.S. Armed Forces. As Wikipedia explains:
Currently, children who immigrate to the United States from another country can only obtain legal status through their parents; there is no independent method to accomplish this. Through many quirks in immigration law many individuals brought here as children remain without permanent status, despite having parents or spouses who are naturalized citizens or legal permanent residents. If a child is brought into the country illegally there is no method of becoming a legal resident. Returning to their country would not guarantee a path to legal status. Attempts to come back legally are often difficult, with roadblocks such as ten year bans on re-entering the U.S.The complete lack of any path to citizenship for these children poses a problem for both them and for the United States, since they are blocked from becoming full contributors to the community in which they live. The DREAM Act would provide a path to long-term legal status for those young people. Although the legislation's detractors assert that the DREAM Act's passage would provide a sweeping "amnesty," the bill would not provide a path to legal status for all undocumented children, for:
To qualify for immigration relief under the DREAM Act, a student must have been brought to the U.S. more than 5 years ago when he or she was 15 years old or younger and must be able to demonstrate good moral character.... Under the DREAM Act, once such a student graduates from high school, he or she would be permitted to apply for conditional status, which would authorize up to 6 years of legal residence. During the 6-year period, the student would be required to graduate from a 2-year college,complete at least 2 years toward a 4-year degree, or serve in the U.S. military for at least 2 years. Permanent residence would be granted at the end of the 6-year period if the student has met these requirements and has continued to maintain good moral character.The bill has been introduced in various forms in both the House and the Senate, but has faced strong opposition each time. Most recently, it was brought up for debate on the floor of the Senate in October of 2007, yet "...though it was able to gain a majority vote it failed to gain cloture by a 52-44 vote, 8 votes short of overcoming a filibuster." Both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama voted in favor of the DREAM Act, Sen. McCain abstained from voting. The White House issued a statement against the DREAM Act before the 2007 vote.
The future of this legislation is uncertain, the Democratic leadership having stated that: