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Pursuing the Citizenship Dream, With or Without the DREAM Act

Many people know that children born in the United States and U.S. citizens, regardless of their parents’ immigration status. The DREAM Act, as it is known, is proposed legislation that would offer legal status, and perhaps citizenship, to certain young people from other countries who came to the U.S. with their parents as children.

DREAM stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors. Such legislation, however, has not been passed by Congress, despite repeated attempts to do so.

In lieu of a solution at the macro level, individual dramas to stay in this country play out every day. Minnesota Public Radio profiled one of these cases this week.

The case features Alan, a teenage boy who crossed into the U.S. from Mexico with his parents when he was only four years old. Alan asked MPR not to use his last name, due to fears that it would put his parents at greater risk of deportation.

Alan is an honor student and was the captain of his high school football team. But he is not a citizen.

And in a curious twist of fate, he is dating the daughter of a prominent former immigration enforcement agent. As a special agent for Immigration and Customs Enforcement a decade ago, Mark Cangemi ordered the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui, a suspect in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Those attacks led to a U.S. backlash against immigrants that greatly affected immigration to the U.S.

Now, however, Mark Cangemi is an advocate on Alan’s behalf and is working to legalize the boy’s immigration status.

Pat Cangemi, a former federal prosecutor, is also trying to help Alan and has become his legal guardian.

Alan turned 18 in February and would like to go to college. But he knows he needs to clarify his immigration status before that. He is seeking special immigrant juvenile status. If granted, that status could open up a path to citizenship for him.

Source: “Mark Cangemi, 9/11 investigator, adopts immigrant teen’s cause,” MPR News, 4-23-12

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