Supporters of a measure that would provide children of undocumented immigrants a path to legal status gathered Sunday in downtown Salt Lake City to raise awareness of a Senate vote expected this week on the DREAM Act.
The gathering of several dozen people along South Temple near Main Street was among many events held nationwide over the holiday weekend to help push for passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the act this week, with the toughest opposition expected in the Senate.
Forming a circle and weathering snowfall for more than an hour, those in attendance prayed for passage of the act. Alma Castrejon, an organizer of the event in Salt Lake City, also urged the public to call Utah Republican Sens. Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch to ask for their support.
Bennett has said he supports the DREAM Act. Hatch, a longtime supporter of the measure, recently expressed reservations about it, saying the nation's immigration debate may have more pressing issues to address first, such as national security and the border.
Critics of the measure have argued that it would provide amnesty to hundreds of thousands of people who are in the country illegally.
The act would offer conditional legal residency for those who entered the country illegally before age 16. To qualify for relief under the act, they would have to have lived in the United States for at least five years, earned a high school diploma or GED diploma and completed at least two years of college or military service. The measure is designed for those under 35 who do not have a criminal record.
"There are many people who have been in this country since they were 2 years old," said Alonso Reyna, of Salt Lake City. "These are people who want to stay here and serve our country."
Eduardo Reyes-Chavez, of Salt Lake City, said he attended the vigil Sunday to show his support for students in Utah who live in fear of being deported and because the DREAM Act "is the right thing to do."
"Education is important to everyone," he said. "It doesn't matter whether you are undocumented or not, you should have the right to an education."