National Immigration Forum

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DREAMing of Congressional Action

September 17, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

DREAM students


For the first time in this Congress, a positive immigration measure—a piece of the comprehensive immigration reform that must ultimately be enacted—may soon come to a vote.


This week, the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, said that the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act will be offered to the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate is now considering. 


What is the DREAM Act?  It is legislation that would allow young people brought to this country illegally before they reached 16 years of age to stay in this country under certain conditions. 


Who are these young people?  Many of them came here at a very young age, and have no recollection of the country of their birth.  They have grown up in America.  They look and talk like their classmates who were born here.  Many are clueless about their immigration status—that is, until they try to apply for college.  No matter their standing in high school, when they try to continue with their education, they find that they are not qualified for scholarships, and in most states don’t even qualify for the resident tuition rate in their states’ university systems.


The odds are stacked against them.  Even when they are able to pursue a college education, they graduate from college without authorization to work.


On the flip side, America is losing a tremendous investment.  DREAM students have gone through our schools and could, if Congress would act, give back so much to this country, converting their education into careers in engineering, in teaching, in the military….


Who are these young people?  There are some, like “TexRancher” and so many others who comment after any news article that appears on line, who call them ILLEGALS—as if following their parents across a border makes them sinister.  You can get to know some of these young people here, thanks to the work of America’s Voice, which is posting their letters and videos to President Obama.  Unlike those who write the hate-filled on-line comments, these young people are not hiding—despite the possibility of deportation.  (You can read more of their stories here on Web site of DREAMActivist.) If only Congress had one-tenth the courage….


The DREAM Act would allow these young people to resolve their immigration status if they came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and have been here for five years or more.  Additionally, they would have to finish high school or earn a GED.  They first gain a conditional status for six years during which time they must complete two years of college or serve two years in the military.  The bill faces long odds.


Here is the procedural outlook: The DREAM Act will be offered as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.  It is not the only amendment that is generating controversy.  Republicans have vowed to filibuster the Defense bill.  That means there will be a vote on whether or not to proceed with a debate on the Defense bill.  That vote is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon (September 21).  If that vote fails to gain the 60 votes needed to cut off debate on the Defense bill, the filibuster will kill the Defense bill, and there will be no vote on DREAM.  If the Senate proceeds with debate on the Defense bill, there will be separate efforts to filibuster DREAM and the other controversial amendments.  A vote on DREAM could come only after 60 votes are rounded up to stop the filibuster against it.  Only if that vote is successful will there actually be a vote on DREAM itself.  Then, it will need a simple majority of Senators to pass.  The whole process could drag out through next week, if it doesn’t die on Tuesday.


You can help. 


Write your Senators, using this letter we have created to make it easy.


Call your Senators.  Reform Immigration FOR America makes it easy here:


Fax your Senators.  Use this tool from America’s Voice.


The Senate will need to hear from a lot of people. As partisan as this Congress has been, and as difficult as it has been to get anything done in Congress up to now, it is doubly difficult to get positive change in an election season.


Learn more about the DREAM Act here.


Image: Maurice Belanger.

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