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The DREAM Act Revisited

December 26th, 2008 · 25 Comments

Seneca’s thoughts on the DREAM Act and how it might proceed in the next Congress:

Due to their immigration status, thousands (in excess of 60,000) of high school graduates across the country have not been able to take advantage of the opportunities that make a higher education a possibility. In-state tuition rates, private scholarships, state and federal grants and loans, the ability to work in order to support themselves and pay for college are all denied to these young people, who came to our country as children and have been living here and attending school without immigration status.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, also called the DREAM Act, is a proposal for federal legislation that attempts to address the federal barriers to both education and work for undocumented young immigrant students. The House version (HR 1275) was introduced on March 2007 by Howard Berman (D-CA). As of 2007,  it is cosponsored by  Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX), Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA), Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Rep. José Serrano (D-NY), Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA), Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) plus 67 other Democrats and 1 more Republican. The question raised is:  Will these same sponsors, especially the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, in the House stay the course in carrying the bill to final approval?

The Senate version was introduced earlier this year by Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Richard Lugar (R-IN). The legislation would restore states’ rights to offer in-state tuition to immigrant students residing in their state and ultimately provide a path to citizenship for those who qualify. The students must be of sound moral character, have graduated from a school in the US or have obtained a GED, have been here continuously for at least five years and be 12-30 years old prior to the bill’s enactment. The students would obtain temporary residency for a period of six years, during which they must attend college, earn a two year degree or complete two years of a four year college career, or serve in the military for two years. The immigrant students could not receive federal higher education grants, but they would be able to apply for student loans and work study. Once the six year temporary period was over, the student who has completed one of the educational or military service requirements would be eligible to apply for permanent residency, if he/she does not meet the requirements, their temporary residence would be revoked and they would be subject to deportation. Several versions of the bill have been introduced in both houses of Congress, although the House has never brought it to the floor alone. In order to bring forth the DREAM Act for debate in the Senate, a vote was scheduled on October 24 that would require a “filibuster proof” count of 60 yes votes. That day on the floor of the Senate, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) , who previously opposes consideration of the DREAM Act, announced that she and Sen. Durbin would work to make changes that she felt were necessary to gain Republican support for the proposed legislation. It was announced that if the debate of the DREAM Act was allowed, the bill would be rewritten in favor of Sen. Hutchison’s suggestions, which included that students should be allowed to hold a temporary student visa with a renewable work permit instead of conditional permanent residency. By a very small number of votes, the Senate rejected an attempt to begin the debate on The DREAM Act proposal, which would have offered an opportunity to the thousands of young undocumented immigrant students an opportunity to pursue higher education and an option to resolve their current lack of immigration status. The DREAM Act obtained 52 votes in favor, falling eight votes short of the 60 needed. Senate rules require a super majority of 60 votes to advance most bills. President-Elect Obama  released the following statement on the Senate’s failure to move forward to consider the DREAM Act (S.2205):

“We need comprehensive immigration reform in this country – reform that promotes our national and economic security and creates a pathway to earned citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country. We should not punish undocumented children who were brought to this country illegally through no choice of their own by keeping them in the shadows. The DREAM Act would have given these young people the opportunity to earn a degree or serve in our military, and eventually become legalized citizens. Failing to pass the DREAM Act only compounds the immigration crisis by continuing to drive thousands of young people every year into hiding.

Today is another missed opportunity in the battle to solve the immigration crisis in this country. The immigration debate has been wrought with the politics of division and fear, and been exploited by some politicians, blocking the real reform we need. Today’s vote proves that we need to do more to transcend these divisions – especially to provide solutions to help the most vulnerable in our society. I will continue to work with Senators Durbin, Hagel, Lugar and Kennedy on this issue, and will fight to bring this legislation back for another vote as soon as possible.”

Clearly, plenty will be on the new President’s agenda this coming year. But one hopes that this important legislation is not jettisoned for budgetary reasons or biased rejection of granting immigrant youth any chance for educational improvement or the lassitude of our Latino congressional members.  

Note: You can exercise your on-line activism by voting to make The DREAM Act one of the top priorities for the next administration at Change.org. You can also get involved at DreamACTivist.org.

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Tags: Barack Obama · community organizing and activism · Congressional Hispanic Caucus · Congressman Joe Baca · Education · Immigration · Kennedys · Rep. Albio Sires · Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez · Rep. Hilda Solis · Rep. Lincoln Diaz Balart · Rep. Linda Sanchez · Rep. Luis Gutierrez · Rep. Mario Diaz Balart · Rep. Nydia Velazquez · Rep. Raul Grijalva · Rep. Silvestre Reyes · Rep. Xavier Becerra · Seneca

25 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anna // Dec 26, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I would be surprised if anything like this is taken up by Congress before the economy is stabilized.

  • 2 DfD // Dec 26, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    We need some clarification here. When using the misnomer of “immigration status”, you do mean “Illegal Alien”, don’t you?

  • 3 DfD // Dec 26, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Restoration of States Rights? You mean, if California decides to re-instate slavery we should be able to? How about denying taxpayer funds to benefit Illegal Aliens in our state? Would anybody go along with that?

  • 4 PL // Dec 26, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    The DREAM Act could actually help the economy by bringing our youth out of the shadows. I myself would probably make a down-payment on a car and an apartment.

    So would CIR … Imagine 12.5 million people having to file back taxes, paying fines, paid minimum wage and above, paying for other consumer goods, even going back to their countries to visit their family … That’s a lot of demand being pumped into the economy which is precisely what it needs.

  • 5 india blanca // Dec 26, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    I cannot think of a better opportunity for us, Latinos, to come together than this project. Let’s quit complaining about gang violence and contact our representatives in Congress to advocate for our young to have the possibility for a brighter future. Why are they only offered the possibility of a high school education and not the opportunity to develop their talents and skills to a professional level. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, especially when we are speaking of the future of our next generation.

  • 6 Marisol // Dec 27, 2008 at 7:13 am

    Introducing the Dream Act in the 111th congress will be an introductory and proactive first step for bringing undocumented youth out of the shadows and dealing with the enigma that is Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

    At a time when our economy is so hard hit, the talent of these youth will bring an influx of innovation and revenue to our country.

  • 7 DfD // Dec 27, 2008 at 9:11 am

    American youths who have played by the rules should NOT have to take a back seat to Illegal Aliens simply because they are not brown or brown enough. To advocate otherwise is irresponsible and racist.

  • 8 Johnny Dilznik // Dec 27, 2008 at 11:35 am

    “Bringing the youth out of the shadows”. As I drive daily through Los Angeles I don’t see anyone hiding in the shadows. I see a lot demand for free education and rights. How has it become the role of the US and California to confer rights upon those who are not US citizens? Rights even my children don’t have. I have a question for all you latinos who seems to advocate soleyly for latinos. How many people do you think this country and this state can absorb? Do you have a limit or is it just an open invitation? I believe the best thing that could happen is the state of California collapses under the weight of the entitlement generation. Thus finally proving that all the violations of federal law that this state continues to participate in i.e., Welfare to Work Act, non-enforcement of immigration law and potentially the Dream Act carry a heavy price. I defy any of you here to back with facts how this has not caused this state to spiral into the bankruptcy abyss. Oh but thats right we don’t do that on here. All we do is call for the ouster of anyone who does not march in lock-step with the latino agenda.

  • 9 Anna // Dec 27, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    No human being is an “alien.”

  • 10 Michaelr // Dec 28, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    The Dream Act has vital importance to the Pentagon. Without forced conscription, this addendum alone guarantees a constant supply of human bodies to be fed to the military to continue the Bush Administration’s goal of nation building. And it comes without the guarantee that all those immigrants who serve in the U.S. military will be granted citizenship. The G.I. Bill instituted by FDR had a more humane approach, and was more honorable to those veterans who risked their lives for American foreign policy goals. The Dream Act is a dubious attempt to emulate the G.I. Bill without the honorable thanks to those immigrant men and women who risked their lives, and those of their families to further the profit margins of the U.S. and multinational oil industry.

  • 11 DfD // Dec 29, 2008 at 8:22 am

    The DREAM ACT is most important to The Chamber of Commerce. Keeping cheap Illegal Alien flowing in and breaking down American organized labor is the goal. You OPEN BORDER ZEALOTS should be proud…

  • 12 Michaelr // Dec 29, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    I think you need to rethink that whole Chamber of Commerce remark DfD. You’re beginning to process commentary like Anna.

  • 13 DfD // Dec 29, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Not really. Very few Illegal Aliens can function in our military. Nowadays you really do need to have a little bit of skill, in most cases. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the biggest cheerleader for the flooding of the workplace with cheap Illegal Alien labor. I do agree with your Pentagon view as well. That is true as well…comparing me to Anna, cut me some slack dude….ha ha ha

  • 14 Johnny Dilznik // Dec 29, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Michaelr,

    The Bush conscription program should be ending soon. After January 20th we will have all the rainbow and unicorn factories we could ever want here in the US. Everything in the universe will be put right and harmony will envelope the land.

  • 15 Michaelr // Dec 29, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    To DfD:
    As of September 2008, over 40% of the enlisted men fighting on the ground in Iraq were Latin American male immigrants without U.S. permanent residence status (illegal aliens). They enlisted in the U.S. Military in hopes they could obtain permanent resident status, even though contractually Congress and the Pentagon have not forced this issue on either branch of the military. To meet recruiting quotas, the US Army and Marines have continually lowered their standards. They are now accepting non high school graduates and certain levels of felons.

    To Johnny Dilznik:

    I am reading this as sarcasm. But come January 20th, a more enlightened administration will take over the reins of the White House. However, we still have a Congress that is owned by Corporate America, and Wall Street. And they are bound to create enough havoc to make our lives pretty miserable for the next four years.

  • 16 Johnny Dilznik // Dec 30, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    To Michaelr,

    Sarcasm intended. I believe that your hope in a more “enlightened administration” will be misplaced. If we are honest with ourselves we should look at how the BO appointments are business as usual. What we will get more of is ethnic politics with the cover of the race card. Repubs will spend 4-8 years bashing everything he does and Dems will do the same saying he is “brilliant” and does no wrong. With young children to worry about I have a horse in this race but my cynicism does not allow me to buy into the “hope and change” and neither do the actions of BO so far.

  • 17 Johnny Dilznik // Dec 30, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Michaelr,

    P.S.- where are you getting your military recruiting facts? I would be interested to read about them.

  • 18 DfD // Dec 30, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Michael gets them from Frank Sharry and Janet Murghia. What a load of crap!!!

  • 19 Michaelr // Dec 30, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    To Johnny Dilznik:

    From a conversation with Admiral Wm. “Fox” Fallon in San Diego, June of this year.

    To DfD:

    I don’t think very highly of Janet Murguia. And I think even less of you.

  • 20 KatherineS // Jan 30, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I am of the opinion that 90% of existing work visas should be revoked and those here illegally should be deported and should have never been able to enter the public or private education system in the USA.

  • 21 In Spirit of Bipartisanship, DREAM Act reintroduced in Congress // Mar 27, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    [...] Seneca has mentioned before, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM) would assist young, [...]

  • 22 Alina // Jan 1, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I too believe that the DREAM Act could actually help the economy by bringing our youth out of the shadows and give them an opportunity to live safely in the only place they know as their home. All of the sacrifices made by their parents in order to provide more opportunities for their children would not have been for granted.

    Furthermore, even after many years of struggle and sacrifice, they still believe that it is all worth it. This country has invested so much in molding these children into what they have become today. It would be very beneficial to the U.S. to allow them to contribute to the country that has given them so much.

  • 23 Action Alert: Support the Trail of DREAMS Walkers // Mar 3, 2010 at 12:22 am

    [...] topic that Seneca and I have addressed on the blog is the plight of the DREAM Act students, undocumented young people [...]

  • 24 Seneca: Pondering the Sinking Immigration Discourse // Jun 14, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    [...] prospects for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) are dwindling day by day. Even the proposed Dream Act to help the children of the undocumented (aka illegals) SECURE university-level education is slowly [...]

  • 25 DREAM Act & the Eric Balderas Case – UPDATED // Jun 19, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    [...] along with Seneca, have blogged about the DREAM Act and why it is so important for youth who have no say in how they [...]

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