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Cultures & immigration beat: 'Dreamers' may be the next hot topic

  • Article by: Allie Shah
  • Star Tribune
  • January 2, 2013 - 7:11 PM

It's no fiscal cliff, but the debate over U.S. immigration policy is another thorny issue that bears watching this year.

Expect a big year on the immigration front, with reverberations from the 2012 presidential election adding new urgency to the call for fixing the nation's troubled immigration system.

More than 70 percent of Latino voters backed President Obama's re-election, citing his stance on immigration issues as a key reason for their support, according to exit polls. In response, more Republican Party leaders are calling for a renewed focus on immigration reform.

The Dream Act is going to be the big story for 2013, predicted John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota in St. Paul. The proposed legislation, which has been around for decades, would grant a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and who plan to go to college or join the military.

"Dreamers," themselves, will be worth watching this year, Keller said. Many are activists who successfully lobbied the Obama administration to create a special program last summer that opened the door for hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants to apply for deportation relief.

But they represent just a fraction of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. "It's really a question of, if the dreamers stay united and expand what they're asking for to include their families and their parents and their big brothers and their sisters, we will get comprehensive immigration reform," Keller said.

The president's Jan. 21 inauguration will be a key indicator of his commitment to tackling immigration issues this year, Keller said. Many immigration attorneys and activists are expecting Obama to name immigration as the No. 1 or No. 2 item on his agenda. Minnesota lawmakers are likely to be at the forefront of the debate. "You'll see a bill worked on originating in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Minnesota has two senators," Keller said.

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

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