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.