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The DREAM Moves a Step Closer to Reality

December 10, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

President makes DREAM Calls
President Barack Obama, with Assistant to the President for Legislative
Affairs Phil Schiliro, makes phone calls in the Oval Office in support
of the DREAM Act, Dec. 7, 2010.  (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


Last week was a remarkable one in Washington. 


The highlight of the week was passage in the House of the DREAM Act, H.R. 6497.  For the first time in the 10 years since it was first introduced, the House passed the legislation.  That milestone was reached only after an unprecedented effort to wring votes out of the House Democratic and Republican caucuses.  


The DREAM students themselves have staged a remarkable effort.  Actions have been conducted all over the country to bring attention to the legislation and to try to persuade lawmakers to act.  In Washington, a contingent of DREAM students have been in town for the last couple of weeks, wandering the halls of Congress, personally presenting their cases to members of the House and Senate, staging various actions, keeping track of the scraps of intelligence they’ve gathered, and trying and trying again to win over their target group of Representatives and Senators.  In their courage, they are setting a good example for our lawmakers.


On the inside, the Administration deployed an unprecedented number of high-level officials.  Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz, and Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Director Joshua DuBois, among others, all participated in conference calls with the press or with various constituencies, penned op-eds, sent letters to the Hill, and or made calls to Members of Congress. 


The President himself was on the phone trying to persuade Members of Congress to support the bill, and the Administration released an official Statement of Administration Policy (SAP), expressing strong support for the DREAM Act.  Jill Biden, teacher and wife of Vice President Joe Biden, placed and op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune and other papers in support of the DREAM Act.

Around the country, immigration advocates encouraged their supporters to call the House and the Senate.  In one 24-hour period, leading up to the House vote and including a shift in attention to the Senate, nearly 80,000 calls to Congress were made by DREAM Act supporters using a special number set up by Reform Immigration FOR America.  That number of calls does not include calls made directly to Representatives and Senators, or calls made through the Capitol switchboard.


Beyond the immigration community, dozens of newspapers around the country have published supportive editorials about the DREAM Act, and a survey of public opinion, conducted by First Focus, a group concerned with children and families, found that 70% of the general public favored the DREAM Act when the contents were described.


The outpouring of support certainly grabbed the attention of House leadership, which put DREAM on the House floor, even though there had been reluctance among some Members to act before knowing what the Senate would do. 


During the debate, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus rose to speak in support of the DREAM Act.  It was a visual contrast to the mostly older white men who spoke against it while feigning concern for the out-of-work American worker.  I say “feigning” because, when the topic of debate earlier in the year was directly about unemployed American workers, some of these same opponents of the DREAM Act (including Lamar Smith, for example) were voting against an extension of unemployment benefits.  With that history, the concern for the American worker expressed during the DREAM debate seemed a bit hollow.


Just prior to the vote in the House, the top two Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, came to the Floor to speak in support of the DREAM Act.  The 208 Democrats who voted for the bill were joined by 8 Republicans, and the bill was passed by a margin of 216 to 198. 


Action now moves to the Senate.  On Thursday, Democrats conducted a procedural vote resulting in a delay of consideration of the DREAM Act until other matters related to the budget and taxes are resolved. 


To send a letter to your Senators asking them to support the DREAM Act, CLICK HERE.  For more information about the DREAM Act, click here.  You can also sign up for our alerts and updates in the box in the right column of this page.

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