Senate Hearing on the DREAM Act, June 28, 2011

Tereza Lee was brought to America at the age of two by her South Korean parents who had first emigrated from their war-torn country to Brazil, where she was born. Her father, a Presbyterian minister, was unable to maintain a sizable congregation in Chicago, and so could not get an immigrant status as a religious worker. Tereza first learned that she was undocumented at age 12.

When she was seven, Tereza began taking piano lessons, and practiced on a piano given to her by a member of her father's congregation. By eight, she was playing in her father's church and accompanying her school choir. She entered and won a number of local and regional classical piano competitions and, when she was 16, enrolled in Chicago's Merit School of Music on scholarship.

After studying at Merit for one year, Tereza won first prize in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Youth Concerto Competition, and appeared as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony, performing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1. She was soon accepted into several of the country's most prestigious music conservatories, but enrollment was all but impossible because she was out-of- status. Although there are no laws prohibiting schools from enrolling undocumented students, many are reluctant to do so. Ann Monaco, Merit's Artistic Director, contacted Senator Dick Durbin, who began working on legislation which would later evolve, as more stories kept surfacing about exceptional but undocumented students, into the DREAM Act. Ann Monaco was killed a year later by a drunk driver at age 57.

Eventually, Tereza was able to gain enrollment into the Manhattan School of Music. In her first semester, she entered and won the school's piano concerto competition - the first freshman in the school's history to do so. On September 11, 2001, she was preparing to fly to Washington, D.C. for a special performance the next day, in which she and other students would make their case for the DREAM Act (then known simply as H.R.1918 and S.1291), when all flights were cancelled due to the terrorist attacks. It would be a long time before immigration issues could again come to the fore.

In 2010, the DREAM Act passed a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, and had majority support in the Senate, but was eventually blocked by a filibuster. Senator Harry Reid reintroduced the DREAM Act on May 11, 2011, and Senator Durbin held the first-ever Senate Hearing on June 28th - ten years after its first introduction.

To help support the DREAM Act, please sign Senator Durbin's Petition: