On Wednesday, December 9, The United States House of Representatives passed The ‘DREAM’ [Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors] Act 216 to 198, largely along party lines — although six Republicans joined in supporting the bill. The Act, which would set young undocumented students on the road to American citizenship, has been introduced and re-introduced in the House and Senate since August of 2001, with the most recent incarnation introduced in March of 2009. The Senate voted to table the bill on Thursday, as Democrats do not think they have the sixty votes needed to avoid a Republican filibuster — yet. And most agree that the bill’s last chance to pass before Congress ends its lame duck session at the end of the year, since more Republicans — and more opposition — will face it come January.
Though the bill has popular support, Republicans maintain that it amounts to little more than a budget-busting amnesty program. Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, a leading critic of the proposed legislation, said this week: “Americans want Congress to end the lawlessness, but this bill would have us surrender to it. It is a give-up type of approach.”
Democrats, on the other hand, frame the Act as a civil rights issue. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “Members on both sides of the aisle need to ask themselves if we can afford to say to these talented young men and women, ‘There is no place in America for you.’”
DREAM activists at a Los Angeles rally
The DREAM Act would require that undocumented high school graduates complete two years of military service or college within six years before attaining legal status. Only students that immigrate to the United States before the age of sixteen and remain for five consecutive years are eligible for the six-year conditional residency status awarded them by the legislation. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently projected that the DREAM Act would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion and increase revenues by $2.3 billion over ten years.
Activists in Washington, D.C.
DREAM Act Co-Supporter Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois)
DREAM advocates continue to hold hunger strikes, write letters, and call members of congress, and Democratic senators Reid and Dick Durbin have promised to bring the legislation back up later this month. “In the mean time,” they said in a joint statement, “We will work with House leaders and the Administration to ensure that the DREAM Act will be law by the end of the year.”