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Published: Thursday, 3/1/2007

Bill would help young illegals

U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Tiffin) yesterday introduced legislation that could grant legal status to illegal immigrants like Manuel Bartsch who were brought to the United States as children.

Mr. Bartsch, who is now 19, was brought to Putnam County from his native Germany in 1997 by his stepgrandfather who never completed paperwork to obtain legal status for him.

The young man was jailed and nearly deported in December, 2005, after meeting with immigration officials in Cleveland to try to sort out his status.

Mr. Gillmor's bill, called the Education Access for Rightful Noncitizens (EARN) Act, would allow people who entered the country before they were 16 and lived here at least five years to apply for conditional resident status once they graduate from high school or receive an equivalency diploma.

They then would be able to remain in the United States for six years and, if during those six years they maintained good moral character and completed either two years of college or military service, they could apply for permanent resident status.

"The EARN Act is a fresh start and an opportunity - not a handout," Mr. Gillmor said in a statement.

The bill is similar to the Dream Act, which has been introduced in Washington in previous years.

Brad Mascho, Mr. Gillmor's spokesman, said unlike the Dream Act, the EARN Act does not include language about student loans or any other financial considerations for illegal immigrants.

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