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Blumenthal Highlights Connecticut Dreamer Cinthia Perez, Urges Congress To Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform

(Washington, DC) – Yesterday evening, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) delivered a floor speech about Connecticut DREAMer Cinthia Perez, a sophomore at Southern Connecticut State University from New Haven who was brought to the United States illegally by her parents at the age of five. Perez attended New Haven Public Schools from elementary school through high school. 

During the speech, Blumenthal urged Congress to pass the DREAM Act as well as a comprehensive immigration package in order to give young people like Perez and others a pathway to citizenship. Since August 2012, Blumenthal has delivered frequent floor speeches about DREAMers in Connecticut like Perez who would benefit from passage of the DREAM Act. In all of these speeches, Blumenthal has emphasized that passage of the DREAM Act would be a step in the right direction but comprehensive immigration reform should be the ultimate goal.

Below is a transcript of his remarks as delivered. Video can be found here

“Today and throughout the coming weeks, I hope that this body will move closer to comprehensive immigration reform. Actually accountable immigration reform would be a more appropriate term to call it. Accountable to the people of the United States, who overwhelmingly want this dysfunctional, broken system to be mended. 

“We are a nation of immigrants, and the people of our nation know it. They know it not only intellectually and abstractly, they know it in their gut because they see on the walls of their homes the proud photographs of their parents, their grandparents, people who have come to this country as a beacon of economic opportunity and freedom, some of them struggling through the most horrific kinds of trials and tribulations to reach this great land, the greatest nation in the history of our country. 

“I have told my colleagues in the past and I'll say it again that one of the most inspiring things I do, and I've done it as Attorney General for a long time, but now as U.S. Senator, is to visit our courthouses where immigration and naturalization ceremonies take place. Those ceremonies are profoundly inspiring because they come, new citizens, people about to become citizens, with their families. It is a day of joy and pride unmatched, and unexcelled in their lives. They come with friends and they come to celebrate with their friends and families. With tears in their eyes and their hearts in their throats, and there is no time that I have seen one of these ceremonies when I haven't been deeply moved and uplifted. If you ever have a down day, if you ever are discouraged about this nation, see one of these ceremonies. You will know what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America and how important it is and how important we should regard it. 

“So I approach immigration reform with a profound appreciation of its importance to people who seek liberty and economic opportunity and justice in this great land but also how we are enriched as a nation of immigrants by the diversity, the talent, the dedication they bring to our factories, where they work, to our laboratories, where they invent, to our military, where they serve and sacrifice and give their lives. And so I hope that we will embark on accountable immigration reform that provides a path to earned citizenship for the 11 million people or more now in this country undocumented. 

“Many times they pay taxes, they live here and they regard the United States as their home. They have no criminal background. They've done nothing wrong, and we need to find a way to bring them out of the shadows and provide earned citizenship, background checks to show they have no criminal records, that they will learn to speak English if they don't now do so, go through all of the other steps that may be set and then go to the back of the line behind people who have legally sought to come here. That reform should also include much stronger security at the borders, a crackdown on employers who hire undocumented immigrants, people in this country who are here illegally but who can be exploited by those employers. And, of course, a streamlined immigration process. 

“The elements of this reform are becoming clearer and attracting a growing consensus. And if nothing else, we should make sure that we provide an expedited route for people who now come with H1-B visas. Some of the details of these proposals need to be resolved so that we give those people who come to this country with extraordinary skills, or who are educated here and now forced to leave the country to the detriment of our tech corporations and many in my home state of Connecticut, and maybe first and foremost make sure that we give the DREAMers what this country so richly deserves. One would think that I might say what they deserve, but really the country deserves what they have to contribute and give back to this country. 

“For some time, I've come to the floor of the Senate to talk about individual DREAMers and I want to talk today about a young person, Cinthia Perez, whose photograph is here and who is one of those DREAMers, many of whom are brought to this country as infants or very young children. They know no other country. They know often no other language but the one spoken here. Their lives are rooted in this country. Their friends are here. They're going through our schools. They are serving in our military. And yet they can be deported at any time. And right now the President has commendably offered the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival, DACA, system for them. But it is only for a limited period of time. It does not provide the certainty and security they need to do what Cinthia Perez wants to do with her life. And that is why the nearly 2 million immigrants nationwide who would benefit from the DREAM Act, between 11,000 and 20,000 in Connecticut, deserve the benefit of a more secure route, an expedited route to citizenship. That has to be part of accountable immigration reform. 

“Cinthia Perez was born in Mexico. She was brought to America at the age of five. She's not left America since. Her family settled in New Haven, Connecticut. She went to the New Haven Public School from elementary school through high school. It was in high school that Cinthia came to understand how her undocumented status would actually affect her future. Because during her senior year of high school, Cinthia attended a college preparation class, and from the start of that class, supposedly to prepare her for college, Cinthia could not fully take part in the course because she thought she would not be eligible to go to college because of her undocumented status. And still she continued in that class as a way to stay motivated about her future, to experience the college application process, like many Americans do, and, in fact, she eventually applied to four universities, some state and some private, and she was accepted, by how many? All four. 

“Her excitement and her family's soon faded as she realized the choice that she faced. She would not be able to attend any of these schools because she couldn't afford it. And her dream school looked even further out of reach because her parents couldn't afford to pay full tuition and Cinthia couldn't share the financial burden because she was afraid to seek work. She is ineligible to work in this country. And she felt hopeless because all she wanted to do was attend college, work her way through so she could create a better future for herself and make a difference for the country. 

“Around that time, Connecticut passed a state law – and I advocated it – to allow undocumented students who have graduated from high school in Connecticut to pay in-state tuition rates that are available to other Connecticut residents. With that financial burden slightly lessened, Cinthia was able to enroll at Southern Connecticut State University, and she is now proud to be in her sophomore year at Southern, SCSU, and she hopes to use her education to pursue a career in Community Development or Environmental Management. Basically, she wants to help improve education and support for children in need, children like herself who simply want an education so they can give back to this country, children like herself who are motivated and inspired to contribute to America, and children like herself who are undocumented. And, therefore, hampered and impeded in their aspirations. 

“I have no doubt that Cinthia will continue to contribute to Connecticut and she will unfortunately face the dangers of deportation from her home and may be sent back to a country that she has not seen for many years, in fact, since she was five years old. I hope that every DREAMer is given deferred action status under the President's program. I hope that Cinthia’s application will be favorably received. I hope that she will be able to pursue her education and work and give back to this nation and that she will be eligible at some point for financial aid. But the full measure of relief from deportation will not come to her or any of the other DREAMers without the DREAM Act. And, therefore, I urge that the accountable or comprehensive immigration reform under consideration by a bipartisan group, headed by Senators Schumer (D-N.Y.) and McCain (R-Ariz.), and the solution eventually adopted by this body to fix that broken system of immigration law will include the DREAM Act.

“I want to thank and give credit to Senator Durbin (D-Ill.), who has championed this measure for a long time, giving a model to many of us at the state level, where I was Attorney General for 20 years, in championing our equivalent of the DREAM Act there, providing aid as we did with Cinthia so that she could fulfill her aspirations to seek education. But at the end of the day, a just and effective, comprehensive immigration reform must resolve the status of those 11 million people, including Cinthia's relatives that may be here, including the DREAMers' parents who may be here, it has to be comprehensive so as to establish an earned pathway to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants already giving back, already here, already contributing members of our society, and most especially the children who were brought here – no fault of their own – when they were five years old or six years old or five months old and we reaffirm that America is a land of justice and opportunity.”