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Local leaders voice support for Dream Act

Protesters demonstrated in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in September at U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s office in Bellefonte.
Protesters demonstrated in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in September at U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s office in Bellefonte. Centre Daily Times, file

State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham, along with an immigration lawyer and a faith leader, on Wednesday called on U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson to support a clean Dream Act.

Goreham; Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, a law professor and director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law; and Ben Wideman, campus pastor at 3rd Way Collective, spoke to reporters on a conference call.

Because of a policy change made by the Trump administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, thousands of young people with DACA are now living in fear of deportation and uncertain about their futures, Wadhia said.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in September that the DACA program — established in 2012 to protect young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children from deportation as they work or go to school — would end in six months, according to the Associated Press.

“To be given a promise that’s now being rescinded is a very bitter pill for many, many Dreamers,” Goreham said.

Almost 6,000 DACA recipients live in Pennsylvania, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Dream Act is a bipartisan, permanent solution, Wadhia said.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Dream Act would provide qualifying undocumented immigrants who came to the United State before age 18 a path to citizenship.

“The contributions of DACA-mented individuals to the education and economic space have been extraordinary,” she said.

Throughout the commonwealth, Wadhia said, they study in universities, work in occupations — like education, medicine and engineering — and provide for their families.

“Children who were brought here through no fault of their own, and have only known America as their home, should not be burdened with the uncertainty of their future status,” Thompson, R-Howard Township, said in a statement to the CDT Wednesday. “Those who came out of the shadows and in good-faith have registered for the DACA program deserve a legal and viable path toward earning citizenship.”

Thompson said he’s joined the Career and Technical Education Caucus to push for the inclusion of skills-based training to be considered in satisfying a potential pathway to citizenship.

DACA participants are “excellent self-advocates,” Thompson said, saying that those who live in the 5th Congressional District should contact him to make sure that as policy is develop, each individual’s circumstances are taken into account.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz

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