By Ed Vogel, Las Vegas Review-Journal
CARSON CITY — A group of young and educated Hispanic adults whose parents brought them illegally to the United States as children stopped at the state Capitol on Wednesday to secure Gov. Brian Sandoval’s support for the federal Dream Act.
Sandoval was in Las Vegas chairing the Gaming Policy Committee. And the six people, all in their 20s, were told by a receptionist that staff members were all in meetings and unable to speak with them.
The group members said they would try to secure an interview with the governor before the end of the week when they continue on a 3,000-mile coast-to-coast Campaign for the American Dream walk. They expect to reach Washington, D.C., just before the election in November.
“The governor has a lot of political pull, and he is looking at running nationally,” said Jonatan Martinez, a 25-year-old Georgia college graduate who found out when he tried to enlist in the Coast Guard that he had been brought to the United States illegally at age 4. “There is a large undocumented community in this state, and we want him to represent them. He has the power to influence other politicians.”
The group is walking to raise awareness about the Dream Act, which has been stuck in Congress in one form or another since 2001. Under the version proposed by Democrats, young people like them who were brought to the country as children, could secure citizenship over an 11-year period. They would need to be “of good moral character,” complete some college or serve in the military.
An alternative version is being prepared by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that would reduce the number of people eligible for the Dream Act.
The most recent Department of Homeland Security statistics show there were 11.5 million undocumented residents in the United States last year, down 100,000 from the previous year.
During a gubernatorial debate in 2010, Sandoval expressed support for a controversial Arizona law that allows police to question people about their immigration status. That law will be reviewed soon by the U.S. Supreme Court. Sandoval said that as governor of Nevada, he would take an “aggressive” stand against employees who hire illegal aliens. He said he does not support amnesty. Sandoval is Nevada’s first Hispanic governor.
Martinez said too many people fear passage of the Dream Act because they have a stereotypical vision of undocumented workers taking their jobs and many being criminals.
“It is a stereotype we want to break by having people connect our faces to the act,” Martinez said. “We want to earn our citizenship. We don’t want it handed to us.”
Raymi Gutierrez, 22, of Salt Lake City is the only member of the Dream walk contingent who was born in the United State and is a citizen.
She said she is walking for her brother and sister, both who have college degrees, and are a few years older than her. They were brought to United States from Bolivia when they were children.
Gutierrez said because they are not legal residents, her siblings can find only temporary, low-paying jobs.
That same problem plagues the Dream walkers.
“When I graduated from high school, my counselor said I had no future, that I might as well get a job on a farm,” said Lucas Da Silva, 23, who was brought to the United State from Brazil as a 1-year-old. A college student in Florida, he has never held a lasting, professional job because of his lack of citizenship.