Undocumented college students sitting outside Sen. John McCain’s office have gone seven days without food in an attempt to persuade the senator to support legislation that provides undocumented residents a path to citizenship.
Congressional Democrats have been trying to bring the DREAM Act to a floor vote since the lame duck session began mid-November, but no date has been set in the House of Representatives.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated that the Senate will vote to end debate and have a vote on the DREAM Act as early as Wednesday.
Higher education graduate student Dulce Juarez started the fast outside McCain’s office last Tuesday near 16th Street and Missouri Avenue along with Rosa Maria Soto, 56, the mother of Dulce Matuz, a 2009 ASU graduate.
“We’re praying for people’s dreams,” Juarez said.
The students plan to end the fast on Thursday, but their efforts to put pressure on McCain will continue, said Celso Mireles, a 2009 business management graduate who coordinated the fast.
A new version of the bill was introduced in the Senate on Nov. 30 with some variation on the requirements.
In the new bill, the cut-off age to qualify for residency is now 30, down from the last draft’s age of 35.
Some requirements have remained unchanged. For example, the undocumented resident must have been brought to the country illegally before age 16. The undocumented resident needs to earn a high school diploma or General Equivalency Degree, finish two years of college or enroll in the military. They will then have a 10-year temporary legal residence before they can apply for citizenship. In older versions, they had a six-year temporary legal residency.
In order to spread awareness of the legislation, Mireles, who started fasting Thursday, took a trip to Washington, D.C., with other students across the nation, where they lobbied for the DREAM Act.
A male nurse has volunteered his time and services to check on fasters, Mireles said.
“Our blood sugar level is a little low,” Mireles said. “The nurse just told us to be careful.”
Mireles, along with the other fasters, have only been drinking water since they started their fast.
Mireles is one of the estimated 114,000 undocumented students in Arizona. Nationwide, there are an estimated 2.1 million undocumented students, according to a report by Washington, D.C., think tank Migration Policy Institute.
Outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has said she would bring the legislation to the floor before the newly elected representatives are sworn in next month.
Reid has promised to bring the DREAM Act to the floor for a vote, but Republicans recently signed a letter saying they would vote against every item in their agenda until former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts are extended for all income classes.
President Barack Obama said he would expand the Bush-era tax cuts, which expire at the end of December, for individuals making at least $200,000 or for couples making at least $250,000, but Republicans would like to expand them to all Americans regardless of their income.
In order to overcome a Republican filibuster, Democrats need 60 votes in the Senate. Some Democrats have sided with Republicans in blocking the DREAM Act, but they could make the 60 vote mark with moderate GOP members who have supported the legislation in the past, like McCain.
McCain has not voiced his current stance on the legislation and his office did not return recent calls and e-mails from The State Press.
Supporters of the fasters have come to show solidarity support for the students just outside of McCain’s office.
Among those supporters of the fasters is Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, an organization that advocates for farm worker rights. Huerta is expected to join the fasters on Tuesday for a one-day fast, Mireles said.
“I contacted her and asked for her support,” Mireles said.
Mireles also contacted Pima County Public Defender Isabel Garcia, who will join them on Thursday to show support.
The Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a group of mostly undocumented students that lobby for the DREAM Act, are asking Arizona legal residents to go to McCain’s office on Thursday to tell his staff that they support the DREAM Act and ask that he champion the cause one more time.
The Arizona Dream Act Coalition will have a press conference Tuesday at 10 a.m. near McCain’s office announcing Huerta’s visit and Garcia’s visit on Thursday.
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