Democratic Convention: DREAMer Benita Veliz Takes Center Stage

With the federal ruling to uphold the most controversial part of Arizona’s immigration law just beginning to make waves, the Democratic National Convention turned its focus Wednesday night to, among other things, immigration and Latinos.

Along with a speech by Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez and a video featuring clips of President Barack Obama speaking about immigration and his administration’s policy revealed back in June, Benita Veliz – a DREAM Act activist and undocumented immigrant – took the stage at the DNC.

“I have had to live almost all my entire life knowing I could be deported just because of the way I came here,” Veliz said. “President Obama fought for the DREAM Act to help people like me.”

“We will keep fighting for reform,” she added. “But while we do we are able to work, study and pursue the American Dream.”

We will keep fighting for reform, but while we do we are able to work, study and pursue the American Dream.

— Benita Veliz

Under the new policy, undocumented immigrants will be immune from deportation if they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED, or served in the military.  Those who qualify for the program can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.

Besides Veliz, Los Angles Mayor and chair of the Democratic National Convention Antonio Villaraigosa, who introduced former Presdient Bill Clinton, is a staunch supporter of immigration reform.

Speaking earlier in the day as part of panel, Villaraigosa called on California Gov. Jerry Brown to sign legislation prohibiting local law enforcement from detaining arrestees who are undocumented immigrants as well as effectively dull federal deportation efforts.

"Gov. Brown should sign it," Villaraigosa said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I expect him to sign it."

“California needs to be different from Arizona,” he added.

Last week, Villaraigosa drew fire for a comment he made claiming that the GOP used Latino speakers at the convention to win over Latino voters.

He said the GOP "can't just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname" and expect Latinos to vote Republican, adding that that was window dressing.