Sen. Dick Durbin took his political agenda to the classroom Monday, calling on Congress to pass the Dream Act for undocumented immigrants – particularly those looking to serve in uniform – from a military academy on Chicago’s West Side.
Durbin held a news conference at Phoenix Military Academy to highlight the contributions of recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the policy known as DACA that protects nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors from deportation.
Having originally introduced the Dream Act in 2001, the Democrat from Illinois has been as one of the strongest advocates for passing the bill on immigration, reinvigorating his calls for action since President Donald Trump announced earlier this month that he would be ending DACA.
On Monday, he spoke at the academy to Chicago Public Schools high school seniors, referred to as cadets, who function in a strict military-based educational setting as part of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC).
Durbin said the so-called "Dreamers" deserve the chance to serve, and then gain citizenship. He maintained that he wants to provide a path to citizenship – something not currently available – for undocumented teens through the Dream Act.
“You’ve gotta look at the immigration status. If a person has a green card, a legal permanent resident, they’re not officially citizens yet and yet many of the branches of the military will accept that and under certain circumstances put them on a path toward their citizenship their naturalization,” Durbin said. “We are talking about a separate category, those who are legally, officially, undocumented, they haven’t reached the green card status."
“I have been pleading with the military, ‘Give them a chance. They’ll be just as good and maybe even better than many that you might otherwise recruit,’” he continued.
"The only program they’ve opened up is the MAVNI program, 800 are moving toward that program but the DACA decision makes it uncertain," Durbin added, referring to the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program that offers a path to citizenship.
CPS CEO Forest Claypool was also in attendance to lend his support to the effort, saying the cadets are the best and the brightest, and the U.S. would be lucky to have them serve.