The pieces may just be starting to fall together for passage of the DREAM Act as more and more high profile figures lend their support with one simple message—the DREAM Act just makes sense. After ten long years, the House looks poised to take up DREAM next week. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has declared that the Democrats believe they have the necessary votes to pass the legislation—and passage in the House could go a long way to creating the momentum needed for 60 votes in the Senate. The most obvious signal that DREAM might actually pass, however, is the increasingly desperate tone of anti-immigration groups, who are basically urging the public to call Congress and say that DREAM allows undocumented students to steal college slots, public benefits and jobs from Americans. Not only is this the same argument they trot out for every immigration issue, but it has been contradicted by so many sources that it sounds like an increasingly shrill cry of desperation.
Despite the growing momentum, no one should think they can sit back and wait for a vote to happen. That’s why this week has seen such a huge escalation of high profile public statements, press conferences and other gatherings. With time running out for the 111th Congress, the White House, in particular, has thrown its weight behind DREAM with daily events including presentations by Cabinet Members, Napolitano, Solis, Duncan and Locke. The Pentagon has been out there too as have plenty of other groups—university presidents, Republican and Democratic Leaders, economists, students, educators, faith leaders, and advocates—all touting the moral, economic and military benefits of the DREAM Act to the U.S.
Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report scoring the latest version of the DREAM Act (S. 3992)—as introduced on November 30, 2010—and found that it “would reduce deficits by about $1.4 billion over the 2011-2020 period.” Other economic studies come to similar conclusions—putting talented undocumented students on a path toward legal status will not only keep the best and the brightest in the country, but provide a boon to our economy, universities and workforce.
In addition to White House support, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Napolitano spoke out yesterday noting that the DREAM Act would ‘strengthen the economy and it’s military and allow DHS to focus its enforcement resources on removing “dangerous criminal aliens” from the country.’ Even the Department of Defense recommended the passage of the DREAM Act in their FY2010-12 Strategic Plan, calling it a “smart way” to “sustain quality assurance” when recruiting an all volunteer force.
Conservative voices have also publically supported the DREAM Act. Back in September, former Secretary of State and retired General, Colin Powell, went on Meet the Press to make an economic case for the DREAM Act and to urge Republicans to stop throwing progressive legislation under the bus in the name of politics. Other conservatives—like Senator Lugar (R-IN) (who introduced DREAM three times in the Senate), Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Former Illinois Republican Governor Jim Edgar and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez—have all pledged support for DREAM.
Critics, meanwhile, are busy spinning myths and misinformation, falsely labeling the DREAM Act as “amnesty” and claiming the DREAM Act allows undocumented students to pay cheaper tuition than citizens. Even more upsetting, however, are congressional leaders who paint potential DREAM students as criminals and gang members or pit DREAM students against U.S. citizen children. In fact, these DREAM students—who sit side by side with U.S. citizen students—are often at the top of their class. According to UCLA Chancellor Dr. Gene Block:
All of us [educators] recognize what a resource these students are for the U.S. They will be leaders in their community one day. It’s critical for all of us who work with these students to speak up. Faculties who work with undocumented youth in both rural and urban universities are finding the same thing—they’re all highly motivated and talented individuals.
So as momentum on the ground continues to grow in support of the DREAM Act—and the restrictionists’ narrative weakens—lawmakers have their work cut out of them. Looking ahead to next week, it appears likely that the House will take the first crack at passing DREAM. Some had hoped the vote would happen this week, but pressing business made it impractical to take a vote before House Members left for the weekend. And given how much sense the DREAM Act makes, it is likely they will hear from their constituents that the time to act is now.
Photo by Shreyans Bhansali.
FILED UNDER: Executive Branch, undocumented immigration