(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tx.), a former border patrol chief who represents the largest community along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, told CNSNews.com that the DREAM Act is necessary but “it’s got to be part of a comprehensive immigration reform package.”
Rep. Reyes’s comments came a day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that he would include the DREAM Act as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill expected to be taken up next week.
CNSNews.com talked to Reyes on Wednesday at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 33rd Annual Award Gala in Washington D.C.
The “DREAM Act I think it’s something we need to do, but I think it’s got to be part of a comprehensive immigration reform package,” said Reyes, the chairman of the influential House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which governs and funds the U.S. Intelligence Community’s National Security Agency.
The Texas representative blamed the Senate for stalling immigration reform.
“We’ve been meeting with the president urging him to put comprehensive immigration reform on the table,” Reyes told CNSNews.com. “The Senate has been the biggest obstacle as they have been for so many other things.”
Nevertheless, the congressman said, “We need to keep pushing. I think we need to keep pressing, because it’s not just about security, although that is one of the fundamental important things that we have to do. But it’s about trade, commerce and the relationship between Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.”
Reyes is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). However, his comments about how Congress should deal with the DREAM Act differ from those made by the caucus chairwoman.
At the gala, CHC Chairwoman Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) told reporters that a Senate vote on the DREAM Act as proposed by Sen. Reid will “show that it’s an issue that everyone should embrace.”
She also said it is “morally necessary” to pass the DREAM ACT and legalize 2 million undocumented Latino students who are in “legal limbo” because America is the only country they know.
“We are talking here 2 million Latino students who, for no fault of their own, are here, and they are in a legal limbo,” said Velázquez.
“They don’t know any other country but America,” she said. “This is what they call home, this is the country that they love and morally it is necessary that we do the right thing and we allow for these kids to be legalized -- and for them to continue pursuing college education is the way that we’ll be able to participate and apply for scholarships and realize the American dream.”
Velázquez further said, in Spanish, that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wants President Obama, who was the main speaker at the gala, “to pledge that he will use the power of his office, the power of his pulpit to convince senators that it is morally correct to” pass the DREAM Act.
“Those children don’t know any other home, don’t know another place, don’t know another country that is not the United States,” she added.
During his speech at the event, Obama vowed to fight for the DREAM Act.
“I will do whatever it takes to support the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s efforts to pass this bill so that I can sign it into law,” said Obama.
The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) would allow unauthorized immigrants who came to America before age 16, and have been in the states for at least five years, to attain conditional permanent resident status if they are of good moral character, attend college or serve in the military for at least two years.
The conditional status lasts six years, after which the individual can apply for “lawful” permanent residency, which can lead to citizenship.
An undocumented immigrant’s conditional resident status can be rescinded if the individual gets in legal trouble or receives a dishonorable or other than honorable discharge from the uniformed services.
Critics of the DREAM Act blame young illegal immigrants being unable to attend a college or university on the parents who bring their children into the United States without proper documentation.
On Thursday, President Obama discussed immigration issues with members Congressional Hispanic Caucus at the White House.