Hernán Rozemberg, Senior Correspondent for Fronteras: The Changing America Desk, hosted the KSTX Town Hall on Immigration Reform: Exploring the DREAM Act on September 20, 2011 at Pearl Studio in San Antonio.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, first introduced in August 2001, creates a path to citizenship for children under the age of 16 brought to the U.S. illegally and who attend college or join the military. It's estimated that there are over 2 million undocumented children in the U.S. who would benefit from the legislation.
Rozemberg lead a conversation between the community and a panel of policy experts that examined how the current immigration system is working and how it impacts the Dreamers, the children who are hoping the change in law will give them a pathway to citizenship.
Those in support of the legislation claim Dreamers are in the United States through no fault of their own, and, in order to properly apply for citizenship or residency, they would have to leave the country. For many of those potentially impacted, that means the possibility of relocating to a country where they don't speak the language or have a means of support.
Critics of the DREAM Act claim the bill is a backdoor way toward immigration amnesty. Opponents say this path to immigration reform rewards law breakers and encourages more illegal immigration. They argue the legislation is too broad and could be abused to grant amnesty to hundreds of thousands who don't legitimately qualify.
The DREAM Act has become a lightning rod for immigration reform, igniting passion on both sides. Texas Public Radio's Town Hall series was able to give the participants a forum for civil discourse in an effort to educate the public about the issue and give both sides a chance to present their perspective.
Schuylar Crist — Schuylar is a longtime conservative activist in San Antonio. He has been a leading local voice opposing illegal immigration and calling for increased border security. He has supported the Minuteman movement and helped coordinate activities here for U.S. Border Watch, a Houston-based group that monitors day laborers.
Lieutenant General (Ret.) Ricardo S. Sanchez — A South Texas native currently living in San Antonio, Lt. Gen. Sanchez served in the U.S. Army for 33 years before retiring in 2006. He was one of the leading military commanders of U.S. troops following the invasion of Iraq. He's originally from Rio Grande City, Texas.
George Rodriguez — The current president of the San Antonio Tea Party, which opposes the DREAM Act. Rodriguez recently retired after many years working for the federal government in Washington, including for the former INS.
Marisol Perez — An immigration attorney with San Antonio firm, DeMott, McChesney, Curtright & Associates. Perez previously worked for MALDEF in San Antonio. She has experience with the legal and political aspects of the immigration debate.
Carolina Canizales — Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, Canizales moved to San Antonio when was nine years old. She did not know that she was in the country illegally until high school. Now, she's a senior at the University of Texas at San Antonio, majoring in communications, where she's a coordinator of the campus group UTSA San Antonio Immigrant Youth Movement. She remains without legal status, so even with a degree she still will not be able to work.
About the Host:
Senior Field Correspondent Hernán Rozemberg (San Antonio) is a veteran journalist with nearly a decade-and-a-half experience, most of that time spent reporting on immigration and border issues. He has traveled the length of the northern and southern U.S. borders on assignment.
Born in Argentina, he's a native Spanish speaker who has lived, worked or studied on five continents. He holds a degree in political economy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a degree in international relations from St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas.
This Town Hall was sponsored by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.