WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, hundreds of youth participated in a mock graduation ceremony in our nation’s capitol to push for passage of the DREAM Act, legislation that would provide undocumented students brought to the United States as children with the opportunity to earn permanent legal status upon meeting certain requirements. For many of these students, high school graduation marks the final “normal” moment in their lives. Despite growing up in the United States and being educated in American schools, they face barriers in pursuing a college degree and are left unable to join the workforce due to their lack of legal immigration status.

The DREAM Act (S.729), introduced in the 111th Congress by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), would provide certain undocumented students with the ability to obtain permanent legal resident status if they came to the United States as children, have good moral character, finish high school or obtain a G.E.D., and complete two years of college or military service.

Today’s graduation ceremony was organized to send a clear message to Congress that passage of the DREAM Act is vital to the future of hundreds of thousands of young people and to the country as a whole. The youth were joined by immigrant rights leaders, child advocates, and Members of Congress, including Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).

Prior to the ceremony, college and university presidents from across the country also called on Congress to immediately take action on the bill by participating on a press teleconference. The higher education community has been unanimous in their support of the DREAM Act, which has the potential to provide approximately 65,000 high school graduates annually with improved access to a higher education and a legal means by which to join the U.S. workforce.

The First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, has been at the forefront of advocacy for passage of DREAM. The organization recently released a poll that placed bipartisan support for the bill at 70 percent. Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley released the following statement:

“We applaud the efforts of the hundreds of brave young people who made the journey to Washington today to call on Congress to take a stand and do what is right for children and for the future of our country. Passage of the DREAM Act would provide these youth, who currently face an uncertain future, with the opportunity to contribute to the country they already call home by putting them on a path to citizenship.

“The poll we commissioned last month confirms that there is strong public support across the country and across party lines to move forward with the DREAM Act. The bill is a common-sense solution to address the hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the United States as children and are left unable to pursue the American dream.

“The future success of our country lies in our ability to cultivate an educated workforce capable of competing in the global economy. We cannot afford to continue losing the talent of so many students who have already been educated in American schools. It is time for children to stop paying the price for our broken immigration system. We strongly urge Congress to take immediate action to pass the DREAM Act.”