PORTLAND – When Selvin Arevalo and two others publicly declared their undocumented immigrant status last Thursday afternoon in Portland’s Monument Square, they shared childhood American dreams of citizenship.

Young people, like Arevalo, know today’s arc of immigration’s moral universe is long. They are trapped in an illegal “no-man’s land” and need Congress to bend that arc more toward justice by passing the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act.

The DREAM Act requires undocumented youth live in this country for over five years and have good moral character.

They must complete two years of college or military service to be eligible for provisional legal status and potential for citizenship. For the vast majority of these youth, this legislation is the only chance of legal status in their lifetimes.

Declarations like Thursday’s defy the immorality of law. Young Latinos “coming out” as illegal is akin to their African-American antecedents going illegal during the 1960s against segregation laws. Opposing immigration’s segregated inequities, the Arevalo types are today’s freedom riders for a civil rights integration through citizenship. They were born into separate and unequal worlds of immigrant exclusion.

With an estimated 2 million undocumented youth facing deportation or shadowed lives of segregation, it is inevitable that American conscience will see the folly in this.

This is where Maine’s U.S. senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, can make a difference.

They can follow the tea party wing of their Republican Party and support destructive policies of segregation, exclusion and deportation. That concession views the Arevalos of the world as criminals — not young victims of flawed immigration policies, limited by dysfunctional border enforcements, destroying families and communities while neglecting exploitation and employer greed.

The senators can best learn from the counterproductive Republican experience in California and give pause to their party’s anti-integration base’s opposition to undocumented immigrants. Beyond the noise of xenophobia, America needs immigrants. Notwithstanding the hue and cry about “cracking down” on illegal aliens that benefitted California’s GOP over a decade ago, polling now shows a favorable state desire to integrate undocumented immigrants as citizens.

Positive change came with time and the recognition of immigration’s diverse value to California’s economy and civic culture. And the ironic census urgency is that Maine is a 95 percent white state in need of immigrants for economic relevance. Our state needs people like Arevalo going into the future. Maine is America’s most aging — with a median age of 42 — and least diverse state in the union.

Portland is central to the geographic lower third of Maine where two-thirds of the population live.

As data-driven thinkers like Richard Florida make clear, the American “backlash” against immigrants like Arevalo “chills the climate for any immigrant to come here.” Most important, the futurist emphasizes immigrants are key to American economic creative revitalization in the face of crises like our Great Recession. Economic crises influence when the “global flow of immigrants shifts and it is the worst time for an anti-immigrant sentiment.”

This is why what Collins and Snowe do is so critical. They can avoid the myopia of a Republican base opposition toward comprehensive immigration. A big incremental first step would be to support the DREAM Act. Maine’s future hungers for the legislation’s prevention of young immigrants, like Arevalo, from being deported and its support for their potential to create value in its economy.

The Republican anchor strategy is to oppose the DREAM Act as “amnesty for illegals” and support surreal public actions of deporting millions of undocumented young people and the parents of American-born children. According to a recent UCLA study, the DREAM Act’s effect would allow the Arevalos of America to add over $1.38 trillion to the economy over their lifespans.

In control of state government, will the Maine GOP go the way of California’s GOP? If Gov.-elect Paul LePage and his Republican Legislature, along with Snowe and Collins, fail to see immigration as primary to its future, Maine will continue to age and become the immigration gateway to Canada — not a destination for America’s future.