Supporters of Dream Act Say Act Now

As lawmakers in Washington get ready to vote on the Dream Act, local advocates are trying madly to rally support. The bill would allow high school graduates whose parents brought them here illegally to get legal by going to college or joining the military.

The New York Civil Liberties Union is sending out emails. Members of Make the Road New York are passing out flyers at subway stations. Immigrant groups are holding rallies and press conferences, all with the aim of urging people to call their legislators, or lawmakers in other areas who are still on the fence.

Make the Road youth organizer Natalia Aristizabal said she has about 30 young people participating daily in a national phone-banking campaign, though she admitted some other states are putting New  York to shame.

“We need to step up,” she said, “because California is kicking our butts.”

Critics of the bill are also talking to everyone they can: Twitter is aflutter with warnings about the damage they say the bill will inflict, such as encouraging illegal immigration or taking jobs from Americans.

But during a conference call for the press, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said this measure will help her agency focus on deporting dangerous criminals by taking out of the pool what she called the “least culpable” of illegal immigrants: those who came here as children.

Many supporters of the Dream Act see this lame duck Congress as a kind of last chance for passage. Come January, Republicans will take the House and, even now, Democrats are struggling to get the few Republican votes they will need to push this through.