Sen. Durbin talks at Georgetown about Protest Movement, DREAM Act
October 19, 2011 – U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) spoke about the Occupy Wall Street movement as well as his push to pass the DREAM act during a lecture at Georgetown Oct. 18.
He said the Occupy Wall Street movement faces serious organizational challenges in unifying protest groups around the country and agreeing on a set of reachable goals.
“If they can move it beyond Twitter and Facebook into the world of productive engagement in our political process, they can play a very valuable role,” said Durbin (F’66, L’69), the assistant majority leader in the Senate.
He said he supports the protest about growing income inequality and the role of banks and corporations in the political process.
“I think it is shameful that we were put in a position where we had to have taxpayers, ordinary hardworking taxpayers, bail out the banks for their greed and stupidity, which we did to the tune of $800 million a few years ago,” he said.
The Georgetown University College Democrats, the Georgetown University Legislative Advocates, and Georgetown’s Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán chapter sponsored the lecture.
Giving a Chance
Durbin noted at the lecture that the DREAM Act, a legislative proposal that he’s being trying to get passed for 10 years, would provide conditional permanent residency to illegal alien students who arrived in the U.S. as minors and graduated high school.
The act also would provide them with temporary residency were they to complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year college or university.
The senator said getting the DREAM Act passed has a personal aspect.
He said a Korean family he knows whose college-bound daughter became an undocumented immigrant to the U.S. at age 2 is not so different than his mother’s immigration as a toddler from Lithuania in the early 20th century.
tears in their eyes
“I thought of this little girl coming at the age of 2 and my mom coming at the age of 2 and I thought ‘Durbin, you came all the way to the United States Senate. Why shouldn’t this young girl have a chance?’ ”
The senator said that after he proposed the bill, students often approached him for help.
“She or he would say to me with tears in their eyes, [and say] “I’m one of those kids, help me,’ ” Durbin said. “Think about that … there aren’t many issues that grip you like that does.”
Coming of Age
Durbin also reflected on his time as a student at Georgetown, coming to Washington, D.C., a week after Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington and only months before John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
“This town went into a state of mourning the likes of which I’ve never seen and I hope I never see again,” Durbin said about the day Kennedy died.
The senator said he discovered his love for politics after his roommate, John Stucker (F’66), helped get him an internship in the office of Sen. Paul Douglas (D-Ill.).
“That point of my life, second semester senior year, I think ‘this is where I want to be,’” he says. “…Something exciting is going on here, they’re making history here.”