BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Congress has been grappling with immigration issues for years. The Democratically-controlled House passed an immigration bill this week. Now Congressman Peter Welch hopes Senate Republicans will help resolve the legal status of so-called Dreamers.
"My mother always thought that if we came to the U.S. we will have better lives," said Juan Conde, who arrived in the U.S. from Mexico with his parents at age nine. Now 33, he's enrolled in medical school at the University of Vermont, but he still has no legal status here. "If you ask all the people that have known me and so on, they say, 'No, you cannot go back. This is an American just like us.'"
Rep. Peter Welch says it's time for the Senate to act. He's calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put the Dreamer bill on the floor of the Senate. "Let us have a vote. You vote whatever way you want. If you don't want Juan to have legal status, and others -- the two million -- fine. Vote. Tell people that, do it publicly," he said.
Without legal status, Welch says Dreamers face the threat of deportation. "They could be arrested or stopped for going through a stop sign, and then because they had no legal status, deported to a country they barely knew. We know that's wrong," he said.
Conde knew he wanted to be a doctor after his mother died of cancer, but medical schools wouldn't enroll him. So he earned a doctorate first, before enrolling at UVM.
University President Thomas Sullivan says federal law doesn't require the school to report immigration status. "And in fact, the university does not collect or maintain any records regarding whether students are undocumented immigrants or not," he said.
Sen. McConnell has indicated the Senate won't hold a vote on the House bill, but Conde says he's an optimist and thinks Dreamers will eventually be protected. "They see this issue as less as a political issue and more of basic decency and fairness," Conde said.