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Villaraigosa calls on Congress to pass Dream Act as way for thousands to shed illegal immigrant status

September 20, 2010 |  3:10 pm
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa added his voice Monday to those of a number of elected officials, labor leaders and others supporting the so-called Dream Act, federal legislation that would provide a path to legal status for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as youngsters.

The act, which is expected to be considered by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, would benefit those who came to this country before age 16, have lived here for at least five years and have achieved a high school degree or an equivalency degree. Those eligible would be able to legalize their status by pursuing a college education or serving in the U.S. military.

Supporters call the bill a humanitarian and practical solution for multitudes of largely assimilated young  immigrants who have known no other home and have already benefited from a U.S. education. Critics call it a thinly disguised amnesty for law-breakers. The proposal faces an uphill battle in Congress, where immigration is a politically charged issue.

Passage of the Dream Act would provide “a great return on money we’ve already invested, and it encourages economic growth,” Villaraigosa said at a news conference attended by students and other supporters.

Among those attending was Maria Duque, a 19-year-old college student in Orange County, who said she came to the United States from Ecuador when she was 5. “I’m undocumented and I’m unafraid,” declared Duque, who said passage of the act could help her fulfill her dream of becoming a lawyer.

Also expressing support was David Rattray, senior vice president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, who said beneficiaries would boost the educated work force.

-- Patrick McDonnell at Los Angeles City Hall