Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010 | 9:01 p.m.
Sen. John Ensign can expect to be swamped with postcards — at least 3,000 of them — when he returns to his Las Vegas office.
That’s the number of Las Vegas constituents who signed cards that have been delivered to Ensign in hopes he will get on board with the DREAM Act.
“They don’t have any excuse not to vote for the DREAM Act,” Isaac Barron said of lawmakers. Barron is a social studies and history teacher at Rancho High School and the faculty advisor for the school’s Hispanic Student Union.
The student group — along with activist-representatives from Si, Se Puede, Latinos en Accion, Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada and Progress NowNevada — held a rally Tuesday in front of the Lloyd George Federal Building in downtown Las Vegas to raise awareness for the DREAM Act and to convince Ensign, a Republican, to vote for it. About 50 people demonstrated.
Barron said Ensign has a duty to his Nevadan constituents who want to see the DREAM Act passed.
“Let’s face it, this is a people issue. There’s thousands of Nevadans — they may or may not be so-called legal U.S. residents — but they’re definitely Nevadans,” Barron said. “It will definitely affect several thousand young men and women that have graduated from our schools. This will get them into our economy. Everything they learn will be put to use.”
The DREAM Act was first introduced in the Senate in 2001. The bill would provide illegal immigrants the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency if they complete two years in the military or are enrolled in a four-year institution of higher learning.
However, they would only be eligible if they arrived in the US as minors, graduated from high school, are of good moral character and have resided in the U.S. for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment.
Ana, an undocumented 17-year-old senior at Rancho High School who wished to not give her last name, said passing the DREAM Act is the final obstacle in her desire to get a college education.
“There’s this wall that’s in front of me, and I can’t pass through it,” she said. “I don’t lose my faith that this will pass. Since the economy needs more professionals and more people to succeed, I think this would be a good thing. A lot of people who are undocumented have a lot of talent.”
The groups started their demonstrations Monday in front of the Federal Building and began delivering postcards every hour to Ensign’s office. Though there was some initial conflict with security officials concerned about the demonstrators organizing a sit-in on Tuesday, the group eventually reached a compromise and were able to send a few members at a time to deliver the postcards.
The group also sang its own version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” with lyrics that referenced careers that illegal immigrants could attain to if the DREAM Act passes.
“On the fourth day of Christmas the senators gave to me / four teachers / three architects / two dog tags / and the DREAM Act to set me free,” the crowd sang.
UNLV graduate student Juanito Espinoza eventually took the reins and led the group in chants of “Si, se puede!” and “What do we want? DREAM Act! When do we want it? Now!”
Espinoza said he was there to support his undocumented friends who are trying to get a college education.
“Here we have this huge capitol of educated people who have had access to education in the U.S. and yet we are not taking advantage of all of those brilliant minds here in our country,” Espinoza said. “They’re going to go somewhere else. Why not keep them here where they can contribute to the economy...the society and help America get back on its feet?”
The Senate is prepared to vote Wednesday on a tax and benefits package negotiated by President Barack Obama and Republican leaders. Las Vegas supporters hope the proposed tax cuts will be enough for Ensign and other undecided Republican senators to approve of the DREAM Act.
“To end segregation was the right thing to do, but not everybody supported it. But there were brave politicians,” Espinoza said. “We need more brave politicians who are willing to take that stand of equality.”