Víctor Manuel Ramos, Orlando Sentinel, May 18, 2009
Like Lara, tens of thousands of young immigrants were brought here illegally as children. They have grown up American, speaking English and attending schools. But if caught, they are still deported.
A bill that would help them gain permanent residency, known as the DREAM Act, is gathering some traction in Congress. The act would grant a probationary form of legalization to immigrants brought here before age 16, who have a high school diploma or its equivalent and who are deemed to be persons of good moral character. Going to college or enrolling in the military could help their cases.
For Lara of Sorrento, a former high school honor student trained in computer graphics, this is the only country he has ever known.
“I feel that I belong in the United States,” he said. “I have spent my whole life here.”
His world came crashing down earlier this year when immigration agents arrested him and held him for weeks in a detention facility in South Florida.
And it’s probably too late for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act to help Lara. The bill has a growing list of sponsors in the House and Senate.
Cases such as Lara’s, however, are not gaining much sympathy from those who want to stop illegal immigration and warn that the DREAM Act would lead to a larger amnesty.
“Their parents have put them in a very difficult situation,” said Roy Beck, director of Numbers USA, a Washington, D.C. group that advocates for reduced immigration levels. “We can’t just keep having one amnesty after another without fixing the fundamental problem. . . . We have magnets that invite people to become illegal aliens because we make it so easy for them to hold jobs.”
Lara and others in his situation feel as if they are being treated unfairly. They never broke the law. Their parents did.