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A potential deportation of a family of illegal immigrants has brought about an outburst of community support and proved a significant case for supporters of the Maryland DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) in the Montgomery County Council.
Nineteen-year-old Jorge Steven Acuña (who goes by his middle name) and his family, father Jorge Sr. and mother Blanca, were arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and detained on grounds of residing illegally in the US. The family originates from Colombia and arrived in the States seeking political asylum when Jorge Steven Acuña was 8 years old.
Steven, who is now a student at Montgomery College, is an excellent student and athlete. “He’s exactly the kind of person we should want in this country,” one of his supporters, Melissa Harris, told WUSA9.com.
Acuña’s friends and the Hispanic rights advocacy groups CASA de Maryland and the Maryland Dream Youth Committee have established a wide-ranging social media campaign to keep the family in the country. “What we want is to bring attention to their situation in the sense of illustrating what people go through,” said attorney Enid Gonzalez to cnsmaryland.org. He is working on behalf of CASA de Maryland to secure the Acuñas’ future.
Acuña demonstrates that the children of illegal immigrants often show great potential, a potential that the DREAM Act seeks to tap into. Supporters of the act believe DREAM would be a much-needed reform of the immigration laws. Sen. Victor Ramirez (D-Prince George’s County), who is one of its biggest supporters, has said: “He wants to become a full citizen and the opportunity is not there for him.”
“We should be trying to help kids like this rather than deport him,” he continued.
But the DREAM Act has its opponents. In an interview with cnsmaryland.org, Delegate Pat McDonough (R-Baltimore County) said that “[Illegal aliens are] not allowed to be hired. It’s a federal felony.”
“The DREAM Act is based on emotion and illusion. People think it’s a good thing to be doing for young people. But it’s unfair to people who are American citizens,” McDonough said.
On Tuesday, congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), announced that the Acuñas had won a temporary reprieve. “I’m pleased that [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] reviewed the facts of the case and decided to release Jorge and the Acuña family and stayed their removal for a year. In light of the circumstances in this situation, it was the fair and humane decision,” he said.
The halting of deportation of an otherwise law-abiding family of illegal immigrants is a significant step for DREAM Act supporters, and Nicole Navas of Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that the immigration officials in Baltimore had exercised ‘special discretion’ towards the Acuñas, allowing them to stay until their son finishes his final year in college.
Whether or not the case will continue in its path in the Montgomery County Council, its opponents argue against it on behalf of its implications towards the legal system. One local student, Dawn Johnson, voiced her concerns, “If they don’t want to be deported, they shouldn’t come here illegally.”
“If you don’t have laws to govern people, there is anarchy, and things fall apart.”