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Hilda Solis helped undocumented students succeed in California’s education system

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid prepares for a boisterous showdown this weekend over the Dream Act, former California Congresswoman and current Labor Secretary Hilda Solis took to the official White House blog to tout the bill’s benefits, claiming that she formerly had a hand in helping hard working undocumented students succeed in the California education system.

     “Early in my career, I worked as a student advisor and higher education recruitment counselor. Many of the people I worked with were undocumented, including a college-bound young man whose academic achievements and dedication to hard work made him a model student in everyone’s eyes. He gave his all, and today he’s an environmental scientist. He has a rewarding, interesting and good paying job. And he’s making his own unique contribution to our country and the world,” Solis said in her recent blog post, one in a series of blog posts by Obama administration officials endorsing the measure.

Solis used the student that she advised on academic matters as a model case for why Congress should pass the Dream Act when it comes up for a vote this weekend. Namely, according to Solis, the legislation would act as a vehicle for providing opportunity to many students similar to the ones whom she advised as an academic counselor. 

     “The DREAM Act gives some of our nation’s brightest students a fighting chance. It eliminates barriers to higher education that often result in high drop out rates. It provides powerful incentives to stay in school…and to graduate. The bottom line: workers with more education fare much better than workers with less,” she wrote.

With Harry Reid recently announcing that he will keep the Senate open until January 5 of next year to get what he sees as necessary work to be done, Democrats have ample time to push through remaining legislation they see as essential to their agenda.  Votes on the Dream Act, however, will come as soon as this weekend according to Washington news reports.

Labor Secretary Solis may be one of the most preeminent advocates of the act, able to tap into and mobilize an energetic Hispanic base of support.  As a former representative from the 32nd congressional district of California, her key constituency consisted of a heavily populated Hispanic area. The 32nd district, now represented by Congresswoman Judy Chu, covers parts of El Sereno, East Los Angeles, South El Monte, El Monte, Baldwin Park, Covina, and Azusa. Solis was confirmed as Labor Secretary on February 24, 2009 after serving her congressional district from 20001-2009.  Prior to joining the Obama Administration, part of Solis’s experience included serving on the Mexico-United States Interparliamentary Group in 2007. The Group tackled immigration, trade, and national security at annual meetings. 

It may come as no surprise that the current presidential administration has used internet tools, like the White House blog, to its advantage on key issues such as the Dream Act. Throughout the past couple of years, the internet has played a crucial role in getting issues out to the public.  Particularly with the Dream Act, advocacy campaigns on behalf of the legislation have taken to social networks like Facebook and Twitter to promote the agenda. No advocacy campaign on the other side of the aisle has really been as well organized.

Besides Solis, support for the Dream Act has also come from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.  

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