Arizona Daily Star
December 5, 2003
Roberto Valenzuela is in his mid 20s. He has lived in Tucson
since he was 11. At Rincon High School, he attended Boys State. He did so well
there he was selected as one of two Arizona boys to attend Boys Nation, where he
spent about five minutes speaking with then President Bill Clinton. He did so as
an an illegal immigrant.
Since 1995, his attorney has been trying to win legal residency status for
Valenzuela. Last year, one judge on the Board of Immigration Appeals denied the
appeal by Valenzuela, his brother, a sister and his mother for legal residency.
Valenzuela's lawyer, Gloria Goldman, appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of
Appeals. She expects the appeal will sit there for a long while. There's a great
backlog of immigration cases pending in the 9th Circuit Court, Goldman said.
Valenzuela's case clearly illustrates why Congress should pass the Development
Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. For whatever reason, numerous
minors illegally entered the United States, often without having any say in the
decision to do so. This bill grants residency to illegal immigrants who entered
the United States before they were 16 and have lived here for at least five
years. To qualify, immigrants would have to graduate from high school and
complete two years of college or military service.
Valenzuela clearly would qualify. He has graduated from the University of
Arizona with a degree in international business and is teaching at a local high
school, said Goldman.
The DREAM bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last October by a 16-to-3
margin. It is supported by both Arizona senators, Jon Kyl and John McCain. A
similar bill, the Student Adjustment Act, was introduced in the House.
Another indication that a consensus in favor of this bill is growing is that
late last month Phoenix immigration Judge John W. Richardson postponed
deportation hearings for four illegal immigrants who happen to be high academic
achievers. Richardson said by this time next year, "the tea leaves should be
pretty clear" as to whether Congress will pass the bill. It was a clear
indication that Richardson considered the students as worthy residents, if not
citizens. He postponed the hearings 10 months - until September of next year -
as a government immigration attorney strongly protested, arguing that the four
should be deported. If the DREAM bill does not pass by September, the four
students certainly will be deported. Valenzuela also could share a similar fate.
The Phoenix students have graduated from high school and are attending college.
Along with Valenzuela, they are as American as anyone who was born in this
country. They are productive contributors to society. As such, they should be
allowed to remain here.