Obama favors DREAM Act in Thursday speech

N.C. advocates respond from both sides

President Obama’s speech Thursday laid out a new set of priorities for his administration pertaining to comprehensive immigration reform.

The president’s new and controversial agenda brought strong reactions from both sides of the debate in North Carolina, home to 500,000 Hispanics as of 2004 — about 60 percent of whom are either naturalized, have obtained a visa, or are undocumented, according to a 2006 study by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Just three days after three young women ended their hunger strike in downtown Raleigh, a two-week effort to bring attention to the DREAM Act, the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, Obama voiced his support for the act on Thursday.

“We should stop punishing innocent young people for the actions of their parents by denying them the chance to stay here and earn an education and contribute their talents to build the country where they’ve grown up,” Obama said in his speech.

“The DREAM Act would do this, and that’s why I supported this bill as a state legislator and as a U.S. senator — and why I continue to support it as president.”

The N.C. Justice Center, which advocates comprehensive immigration reform nationwide and statewide, supports the president’s remarks.

“What we really need is an accessible path to timely legal status and citizenship for workers and families currently living in the U.S.,” said Dani Martinez-Moore, immigrant network coordinator for the N.C. Justice Center.

“The DREAM Act is a common-sense proposal that would be a great first step.”

The center did however criticize the president’s speech, adding that he did not mention that 1,000 immigrants are deported every day under the Obama administration, more than were deported under President George W. Bush, according to the center.

“President Obama is correct that comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue,” Martinez Moore said. “But meaningful action has to follow his words if this speech is to have any impact.”

Americans for Legal Immigration, a political action committee out of Raleigh, will take on this new presidential agenda from the other side by pushing for more enforcement at the border and stepped-up deportation efforts for those living in the States illegally.

“Americans want immigration enforcement, instead of Obama’s Amnesty,” said ALIPAC president William Gheen.

“We expect voters to punish Amnesty supporters in the 2010 elections.”

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