Senator Scott Brown has agreed to meet with a representative of a group pushing for legal residency for unauthorized immigrant students, his spokeswoman said today.
The meeting, to take place in the next four to six weeks, comes after 300 people signed an on-line petition and a day after nine members of the Student Immigrant Movement said they held a sit-in at his Boston office to urge the Republican senator to meet with them.
Despite Brown's past criticism of illegal immigration, students and other advocates for immigrants have been eager to reach out to him since the death last year of his predecessor, Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Brown's election cost them a valuable ally in the Senate, but they said they hope Brown will keep an open mind on the issue.
Kennedy had pushed aggressively for bipartisan legislation that would create a path to legal residency for about 12 million illegal immigrants nationwide, including an estimated 190,000 in Massachusetts.
"We want [Brown] to hear the stories of immigrant youths who are affected by the broken immigration system," said Kyle de Beausset, a 24-year-old representative of the group who will meet with the senator. "We just want him to hear these stories -- to hear what they’re going through, face to face, so he can decide for himself what to do."
The Student Immigrant Movement is pushing for legislation known as the federal Dream Act, which would allow young immigrants to apply for legal residency nationwide.
Brown's spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho, characterized the meeting as a routine sit-down with a constituent, who is a US citizen.
"This meeting request has been handled no differently than any other Massachusetts constituent or constituent group who seeks a meeting with the senator," Gitcho said.
Brown has taken a tough stance on illegal immigration. He opposes driver’s licenses and in-state college tuition and other government-funded benefits for immigrants here illegally, and as state senator, he sought to require state contractors to screen for unauthorized workers.
However, Brown’s spokeswoman said the staff is reviewing information on the Dream Act to determine whether he will take a position on it.
Mario Rodas, a 23-year-old from Guatemala who was granted asylum in 2008, urged Brown to meet with immigrant students as well.
"I know what it feels like to be in the shoes of undocumented students," he said. "I think that he needs to hear multiple stories so that he can get how the problem affects us."
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