Rep. Kendrick Meek, the Democratic Senate candidate, joined about 100 students and others Monday at Miami Dade College's downtown campus to support passage of a bill that would allow tens of thousands of young illegal immigrants to become legal residents.
Participants urged Florida Republican Sen. George LeMieux to vote in favor of the DREAM Act, which would legalize those who entered the country as minors and are pursuing a college degree or serving in the military.
"It's important that we work very hard to make sure that we reach those that need to be reached at this time and have them do what they should do to represent this state and this country," said Meek. "That's to vote to make sure the DREAM Act becomes a reality and becomes part of the defense authorization act."
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he would include the DREAM (for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Bill.
Chances look slim for the bill, which needs 60 votes to move forward and already includes controversial provisions such as a repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
LeMieux, who was handpicked last fall by Gov. Charlie Crist to replace retiring Sen. Mel Martinez, has said he's reserving judgment until he sees the language of Reid's amendment. Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson supports the bill, as did Martinez, a Republican.
More than 700,000 students who live illegally in the U.S. could be eligible for green cards under the DREAM Act, experts say.
Among them: Vanessa Jaramillo, a 20-year-old from Colombia. She told her story during Monday's rally.
She was brought to the United States as a toddler on a tourist visa with her mother, an attorney who wanted a break from an abusive marriage. But because the situation back home was unstable, they overstayed their visa and never left Miami. Her mother, who also attended the rally, now works as a maid.
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