Congress Flexes Muscle for Broader Immigration Reform with DREAM Act

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Yesterday, the House and Senate delivered yet another signal that the political tide for immigration reform is getting stronger with their introduction of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act [Senate] and the American Dream Act [House].  The bill is a strong bipartisan effort and a sign that the muscle for comprehensive immigration reform is getting stronger on both sides of the aisle as momentum builds.

The bill would would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for undocumented immigrants who entered the country more than five years ago while they were under the age of 16 and who complete two years of college or 2 years of military service. It aims at giving hard-working undocumented children who have always considered America “home” the opportunity to fix their status and contribute to our economy and their communities.  According to the National Immigration Forum:

This bipartisan bill offers a practical solution. Placing higher education and citizenship out of reach for hard-working immigrant students does not force them to leave our country-the only country they call home.  Instead, it forces them to remain in the underground workforce while America is deprived of the increased economic productivity and the tax revenues provided by a better-educated workforce.

Senate leader Harry Reid (D-NV) praised the bill:

For many of these young people, America is the only homeland they know. Giving them the opportunity to educate themselves, or to defend our country, is good for them and for our nation. This law would grant these children temporary status while they go to college or serve in the Armed Forces. If they graduate or serve honorably, and stay out of trouble, they would be eligible for a green card and eventually for citizenship.

Sandra graduated valedictorian of her high school and salutatorian of her community college, but the prospects for her future are limited.  Sandra came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was just a one-month old infant.  Though Sandra has spent all the other months of her life in the U.S. and considers America “home,” current immigration laws provide her no mechanism to obtain the legal residency she needs to realize her full potential.  A path to citizenship like that provided in the DREAM Act is the only hope Sandra has when it comes to making the most out of her aptitude and talent:

SANDRA: “I’d like to be a contributor to our society…I could be doing a lot more…”

While the DREAM Act would do a lot to bring bright students like Sandra out of the shadows, it’s just part of what’s needed to harness the extraordinary work ethic, talent, and brainpower that the 12 million undocumented people living in our country already posses, but are blocked from leveraging.  The DREAM Act is an important step in the broader fight for comprehensive immigration reform that would help get our economy back on its feet, restore the rule of law, and uphold our values as a land of fairness and opportunity.

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  • Thanks again for writing about the DREAM Act, Andrea. Once again, I wrote a post detailing 5 actions people can take in support of the DREAM Act, for those that are interested.

  • Denis

    Thanks for writing about the DREAM Act. I would appreciate if you could also write about the injustice in the immigration system brought on binational same sex couples that should be rectified by the passage of the UAFA (Uniting American Families Act) that was introduced again in the House and Senate in February. Thank you!

  • Bob Norris

    Here in Colorado we are trying to pass the Tuition Equity law. This will allow more students to attend college and take advantage of the DREAM Act when it passes.

  • Shawn

    What about other students who came after age 16?

  • The modern concept of immigration is related to the development of nation-states and nationality law and/or citizenship law. Citizenship in a nation-state confers an inalienable right of residence in that state, but residency of non-citizens is subject to conditions set by immigration law. The emergence of modern nation-states made immigration a political issue: by imagining its populations, in violation of multi-ethnic, multi-‘racial’, multi-cultural realities ‘on the ground’, as homogenous blocks, constituting a nation defined by shared, single ethnicity, ‘race’ and/or culture. Legal and political restrictions on the presence of foreigners is a highly controversial political theme because such restrictions are introduced and maintained by states whose citizens have had a major, sustained and deeply consequential presence in states other than their own (see: colonialism).

  • quovadis2009

    Shawn Says:
    March 27th, 2009 at 9:21 pm
    What about other students who came after age 16?

    I understand there will be students who came after age 16, but maybe below 21, but have been here continuosly for at least 5 years and maybe now have already or are in the process of completing their college education. If the new DREAM ACT carries the same provision as the last one, then a lot more will fall through the cracks. Maybe we can ask Sen. Durbin to amend the act by allowing those who have completed their college education be allowed to waive the “age at first entry” requirement. I know some in the same predicament and some are already into their Master’s Degree but have no way of legalizing. 🙁

  • It used to be where high school students could obtain a “green card” by showing that they would suffer extreme hardship if they were deported (“suspension of deportation”). The cruel U.S. laws subsequently changed where Congress made it clear that the student’s hardship no longer matters but only the hardship to their U.S citizen or U.S resident parents or children, and further, that such hardship had to be extreme and exceptional hardship (“Cancellation of Removal”). This forced many students to marry at an early age. The laws continued to hunt for such students by telling them that when they went to their consulate appointment they could not reenter the U.S. for 10 years absent a hardship waiver that could ONLY be based, NOT their hardship but on the hardship of ONLY their U.S. citizen or U.S. resident parent or spouse (The hardship to the student’s children did not court)(I-601 waiver). Now the Dream Act is a new opportunity for students who have been to the U.S. most of their lives, and who entered as children, to obtain their green card and to go to College. It’s both crazy and cruel to have great thinkers and scholars to be working in nominal jobs because they are not U.S. citizens or residents. Congress should first tell all these children, “sorry,” and then IMMEDIATELY pass the Dream Act as a step in the right direction.

  • natalia gom

    What about students who have been very successful at college with higher degrees but who are over 16 years old? They deserve a break also!

  • CPUWiz

    Although I completely agree with the Dream Act proposal it cannot be considered without also extending the same opportunities to legal (here on a visa from thier parents) children who have been waiting for a green card for 10 years (in some cases)along with thier parents and face many more years. If legal children also fall under the same circumstances they should also be able to adjust to legal permanent residency under the same conditions.

  • Alex Andion

    The Dream Act sounds fair to many students that came here to this country before they were 18 and have been studying and trying to be better every day.

    But you are missing a couple of things.

    1) Is states like FLORIDA, if you finish high school and are an illegal immigrant, then you CAN NOT got to college. Colleges and Universities is Florida require to be a legal resident to attend to those schools.
    So, it’s not fair for many young immigrants not to be part of the Dream Act because of this specific law in their state. This should be considered.

    2) There are students that came to this country before they were 18 yes, but maybe after they were 16. Yes, they were 17, are still not old enough to be called adults but are not young enough to qualify for the Dream Act because they should have been 1 year younger. These students that have more than 2 years of college but are so close to the age requirement should be considered as well.

    Thank you.

  • The Dream Act is the humane way to assist the non-documented children of Immigrants in the U.S. Children need to see a way to become a citizen. Without education and citizenship non-documented students cannot work, pay taxes,have a positive future and have fulfillment in their lives.

  • The Dream Act proposal is inadequately designed to accommodate all minor. In addition, it has created flaws that are exclusive rather than being inclusive. A strong Dream Act program should cover all minors from 0 births to age 21. We cannot keep potentials hidden undergrounds and expert to thrived and grow as one nation. Real growth begins not only with clear directions but with real change. We are currently experiencing crisis in this county and our nation’s people needs all that dwelled, eats, and breaths its air to be involve. Pulling together creates no boundaries and unites all to achieve one common goal. It is these human’s experience that we must utilized to further progress our own humanity and well being as one unite species. A complete implement Dream Act will give all young adults the opportunity to be participating citizens and also provides the chance to be part of the solutions and become more productive to our great nation.

  • Bless LaGrone

    I clearly agree with Janet K that for the Dream Act to be successful, it should be inclusive and not exclusive. Immigration bills like the Dream Act should solve current immigration shortcomings. We don’t create a bill to legalize only a portion of a population. If we’re going to sit and fight for a bill it should be able to solve majority of the shortcomings of current immigration rules. Many fall to the cracks because of our broken immigration regulations. The Dream Act should have provisions for those children above 16 and below minor age of 21. It should also include children who entered legally maintained legal status on the basis of their parents status bit who are running out of time until their age of 21 because their parents have not been issued permanent residency yet. If its a Dream Act, let’s cover all the loopholes and make the dreams of these young kids and adults a reality. A legality that will allow them to be a productive citizen of this country. The future of America is with these youth.

  • Pingback: Congress launch Immigration Reforms with the DREAM Bill | Immigration Review()

  • Alex

    I am an American who supports the “Dream Act” I have friends who are undocumented and in college. My advice to anyone who is undocumented is to get on the phones 24/7 to Washington when the “Dream Act” comes up for a vote. “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” was defeated becasue hateful Americans got on their phones 24/7 and closed down the swithch board in Washington. Fight hard for what you want. CALL CALL CALL CALL

  • Khaidija

    I Am an A student, taking a management associate degree program while still completing for my High School diploma. My Grandmother is a citizen, My dad is awaiting the completion of the process for permanent residency since 2003. That’s a broken system that frustrates an applicant that long.
    My brother also graduated from High school last year. He has had many offers from Colleges and Universities but is sitting home immobilized by a broken promise , that denies him the opportunity to work hard and be the best son and US citizen ever.

    Please make the US work again for people who wants to work hard and build both this lovely country and themselves.

  • Carol

    I have been teaching undocumented students for 12 years and now see how difficult it is for them to participate in higher education and to become successfully employed member of society. The DREAM Act is the answer to so many problems!!! Pass the DREAM Act!!

  • Leo Toledo

    My concern is that the kids will be getting their path to Citzenship, but parents will be left out of the process and they might be under ICE watch for deportation. I have two American sons 19 and 17 years old and that did not stopped ICE coming to my home at 06:30 am and deport me,I do not have any criminal history… The law is half way there, how people will be unafraid of coming out? There are two paths being sought by different groups of the same government, both must be adjust to reflect the will of this new administration.My kids were in college nd now my family is split apart and studies have been suspended until a Comprehensive Immigration Reform takes in consideration Family Reunification and stopping of the raids on ^easy targets^ ( non-criminals hard working people in their homes or working places).

  • matt

    Somethings need to be done, some ought to be done. Getting work force from out side when thousands of bright individuals who could be doctors, nurses, engineers are hanging in malls, streets and God knows may be in jails. Reforms like dream act is as important as stimulating economy. Lets say for example your family is country. If only one member of the country is working will it not be a poorer country.With one mouth to feed God gives two hand to work. Think with your heart and you will find the answer. The day people are legalized will be the real stimulas package. Right from issuing driver lisences, car buying, house buying, travelling by air, higher education etc will bloom all over. Good Luck.

  • Esther

    This year was a historical year for America. The first African American became a president. Barack Obama used a famous slogan to run his campaign
    YES WE CAN.” i love President Obama n his campaign, however, as an immigrant who is undocumented it was hard for me to participate in saying this famous slogan “YES WE CAN.” I am positive that i am not alone in feeling this way. I am a hardworking young lady, very enthusiatic about life, gaining an education and attianing a jod. I would love to wake up one morning and know that i have every right and abulity to attain a masters degree, get a job, and contribute to society legally. IT is only through the Dream Act that this can happen. And then i’ll be able to proudly say “YES I CAN. ” I hope, pray, and believe that the Dream Act is passed because it will be a dream come true for young people who feel like there is a limit put upon their potential. And it would definitely be a boost to the economy.

  • Veeve Dushenta

    I am happy that America is a blessed country. Evidence from the millions of people running here to improve their lifestyle explains how blessed we are in resources. If we can share this blessing with other people from other lands, we are also increasing our blessings. So, when we give them the DREAM ACT, we are storing more treasures in our economy. For instance, when they are LEGALIZED, they will be able to utilize their skills and contribute greatly to our American Society and help put America forward at a faster pace. So, make it a DREAM ACT all inclusive.

  • Rony Francis

    I know a young lady who has been living in the US for more than 5 years. She was 19 when she came. She is an A student at the college. Will she be considered in the Dream Act?

  • Jane

    I came here legally for studies but had a problem which made me unable to regester for classes for one semester, then i was out of status, i have tried to apply for reinstatement but was denied i really dont know what to do i wana finish my studies and may be go home but can not go to school now am so depressed i hope the dream act will save a person like me too.

  • F. L.

    I came to the US when I was 15 years old, and faced the problems all immigrants face when living in another country. I am now attending college, and I really hope the DREAM ACT passes because I want to contribute to this great nation, and also better myself.

  • Mary

    What about the ages 17-21 when they entered the United States. They have Dreams and Goals in Life too!
    Please help include them.