Updated: Wednesday, 23 Sep 2009, 10:00 PM MDT
Published : Wednesday, 23 Sep 2009, 10:00 PM MDT
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - University of New Mexico students rallied Wednesday in support of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
If the Dream Act, which failed in Congress two years, were to pass, it could be the path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, who came to the u-s as children.
About two dozen students participated in the rally.
The proposed law died on the Senate floor in 2007, but earlier this year versions were introduced in both the House and Senate.
The Dream Act would grant "conditional residency" for illegal immigrants who came into the country before the age of 16. There are restrictions though; those who qualify must attend college or enroll in the military.
One who might benefit is Oscar who was 6 when he left Mexico and came to the U.S. illegally with his parents. KRQE News 13 is not using his last name because he fears he could be deported.
“I didn't have a choice; I couldn't make a choice," Oscar said. "I couldn't tell my parents, 'No, I’m not going."
The law would allow Oscar to live and work in the U.S. legally, attend college and pay in-state tuition. On top of that he wouldn't worry about being deported to a country he barely remembers.
“I haven't done anything that hurt anybody else," he said. "My question is why I can't be able to dream."
One the other side of the debate was Charles Walker, who represents New Mexico in a national group, called the Federal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Coalition which describes its mission as ending the invasion of illegal aliens into the country.
Walker said the FIRE Coalition oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants, which is what the Dream Act offers.
“I snuck into your country, and I demand amnesty, I demand this and I demand this," Walker told News 13 in a telephone interview. "Well rightfully they don't have the right to demand. They're not here legally."
The bill states those who qualify for conditional residency could be granted permanent residency and then apply for citizenship.
Walker said he hopes lawmakers will listen to his side. However, that argument didn’t seem to sway the minds of many on Wednesday.
“It doesn't matter if they came here illegally,” Lee Kittell said as he signed his name to the petition supporting the bill. "If they've been contributing to society they need to be citizens."
New Mexico passed has its own version of the Dream Act, which
went into effect in 2005.
It allows immigrants regardless of legal status the opportunity to attend college and pay in-state tuition.
However once graduates get their diplomas they can't use it in the U.S. until they're deemed legal residents or citizens.