Senate to Vote on DREAM Act

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced on September 14 that the DREAM Act (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) will be brought to the Senate floor for a vote next week.  It will be attached as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill.

There is a strong bipartisan support for the bill.  The last time the bill came to a vote in the Senate was 2007.  Ten Republican senators voted for it.

The bill has been introduced in various forms several times in the U.S. Congress since 2001.  It was included in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which was passed by the Senate, and the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007.

If the bill passes the Senate it will go to a conference committee reconciliation and then to both House and Senate for a final vote.

The bill would allow certain undocumented students to adjust their status to that of a conditional permanent resident for six years.

To be eligible for benefits under the bill, the student must have entered the U.S. before the age of 16 and physically present for a continuous period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding the enactment.  The student must be less than 35 years old when the law is enacted.

He must also have been enrolled in college or earned a high school diploma or GED certificate.  He must be of good moral character.

As a conditional resident he will be eligible to obtain a driver’s license, attend college as an in-state resident, work legally, obtain a social security number, and travel outside the U.S.

To remove the condition the student would have to either 1) earn a degree from a community college; or 2) complete at least two years of a bachelor’s degree; or 3) serve in the U.S. military for at least two years.

According to an analysis made by the Migration Policy Institute, 726,000 undocumented young adults would be eligible for conditional permanent resident status and that approximately 114,000 would be eligible for permanent resident status after six years.

Supporters of the bill have argued that these students were brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were young and therefore they should not be held accountable for their parents’ action.

Many of these students are smart and talented and have excelled in their school, in sports, and in the fields of arts, science and technology.  Because of their undocumented immigration status they have been unable to pursue their dreams of going to college.

Legalizing them would strengthen our economic infrastructure as it would expand our educated workforce.

While some argue that passage of the DREAM Act would distract from comprehensive immigration reform, the fact that it has been so close to being passed before should be a good reason for our community to strongly support it and actively campaign for its immediate passage.  We should take action now and urge our senators to vote for the bill.