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Productive students
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.