Jesus and Guillermo Reyes were 11 and 15 when their family arrived from Venezuela in 2000. Walter Lara was 3 years old when his parents left Argentina in 1989. Gaby Pacheco was 7 when she came from Ecuador with her parents in 1993. And Juan and Alex Gomez were just toddlers when their family fled Colombia in 1990.
They are all children of undocumented parents who grew up in the United States, the only country they really know. But as adults they are paying the price for their parents' decision to overstay a visa or cross the border illegally.
In some cases, they were eventually detained and threatened with deportation. But their removal was stayed because of last-minute efforts by friends, classmates, lawyers and lawmakers.
The Reyes brothers' case has rekindled interest in pending legislation known as the DREAM Act that would provide a solution.
Repeatedly submitted to Congress over the years, the DREAM Act would provide green cards -- permanent residency -- to children of undocumented immigrants as long as they go to high school or college or enlist in the military.
Provisions of the DREAM Act were added to the first comprehensive immigration reform bill of the current Congress filed in mid-December by Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois. Prospects for immigration reform, which seeks to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants, are as uncertain as ever -- but some believe the DREAM Act stands a better chance because it aims to help young people who were children when their parents arrived in the United States.
President Barack Obama has indicated he may push for immigration reform after health-care reform.
"I sense the time is right,'' said Gaby Pacheco, a Miami Dade College student spearheading the South Florida fight for the DREAM Act.
She plans to lead a student Walk to Washington from Miami Friday to rally public support for the bill.
Even some immigration reform opponents believe the DREAM Act may pass -- but not through reform which would legalize millions of undocumented immigrants.
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