By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Regem Corpuz says he’s tired of watching families of friends and relatives broken apart.
“When Obama is deporting all these people, separating all of our families, I’m sick and tired of that,” said the 19-year-old Corpuz, a student at the University of California, Los Angeles.
He was one of 600 leaders of a nationwide movement of young undocumented immigrants who met for three days at the convention center in downtown Kansas City, Mo. that ended Sunday.
They called themselves “Dreamers,” after the Dream Act, a bill that would create a pathway to citizenship for young people, who were brought to this country illegally as children.
The Act has failed to pass the U.S. Congress twice, despite the intense lobbying by the young immigrants and some support from both parties.
In June, President Obama signed an executive order along the lines of the Dream Act, and allowed Corpuz, and others like him, to have a two-year reprieve from deportation, perhaps opening too a pathway to legal status and U.S. citizenship.
An estimated 1.7 million young immigrants would be eligible for legal status under the Dream Act, the same number who could avail of the benefits of the Obama executive order.
Since May, more than 5,000 have been granted the so-called deferred action program, which allows them to stay legally and work for at least two years.
But in their Kansas City conference, the young immigrants did not focus on finding a path to citizenship for themselves. Instead, they urged a comprehensive immigration reform that will affect the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country.
They say the overwhelming support to President Obama from the Latino community would spur both Democrats and Republicans to work for comprehensive immigration reform.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity to engage our parents, our cousins, our abuelitos in this fight,” said Cristina Jimenez, a leader of the United We Dream organization, using the Spanish word for grandparents.
Obama received 71 percent of the vote from the Latino population, topped only by blacks, who voted 94 percent, and Asian-Americans, who voted 73 percent.
Of those between 18-24 years old, more than 65 percent also voted for Obama.
Many of those who attended the conference did not have legal papers and getting to Kansas City was a challenge. Some who came from California said they had taken the risk of flying for the first time, passing security with state identity documents.
Others came by car from places like Florida, New York and Texas, driven by the few among them who have valid licenses.
Hundreds also were like Corpuz who had relatives and friends separated by deportation and were critical of Obama, who deported more than 1.4 million in his first term.
“This is our home too, now,” Corpuz said. “We deserve to be treated better and we’re willing to fight for it.”
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