Brent Finnegan -- August 27th, 2010
The DREAM Act is a piece of proposed federal immigration legislation currently stalled out U.S. Congress, but an immigrant from Harrisonburg pushed Virginia’s chief executive to take a public stance on the bill Thursday night.
At the assembly in which McDonnell promoted his plan to privatize Virginia’s ABC stores, the governor also fielded questions on a wide array of topics ranging from climate change to mountaintop removal to Chesapeake Bay cleanup regulations.
One of the last questions of the evening came from Isabel Castillo regarding McDonnell’s stance on the DREAM Act. If the name sounds familiar, you may have read about her protest and arrest in D.C. last month
Castillo, who entered the U.S. when she was six, rattled off an impressive list of scholastic accomplishments before hitting McDonnell and the assembly with, “but I’m undocumented.”
Her voice shaking, she posed a question to the governor: “Would you support legislation such as the DREAM Act so that young people like myself can work legally, so we can use the degrees that we have, and attend colleges in Virginia, where our parents live, work and pay taxes?”
Castillo was looking for an endorsement similar to Harrisonburg City Council’s statement of unanimous support for the proposed federal legislation in February.
McDonnell commended Castillo for her accomplishments, and addressed the larger issues of border security and comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level, adding that he has “very little authority to do much in terms of enforcing the federal immigration law” as governor of Virginia.
When Castillo pressed McDonnell for his support, he responded, “No, I can’t. Because what that basically does is look the other way, not support the law, and it allows someone who is illegally present to be given the same rights as a United States citizen.”
After the meeting, Castillo said she was disappointed, but not surprised at the response. “Coming in here, I knew that he was very conservative, and supported 287 (g). He said they need more people like me. Well, [the DREAM Act] is how he can keep us here.”