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Action on DREAM Act Still Possible Before Congress Adjourns

By Laura DeKoven Waxman
December 20, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised consideration of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act before the 111th Congress adjourns in a December 14 press availability. "We-ve got to make sure we complete work on the DREAM Act," Reid commented, explaining that the Senate would get to it after it finished work on tax legislation, ratification of the START treaty, and FY 2011 appropriations. The House passed the bill (HR 5281) in a largely partisan 216-198 vote December 8.

The Administration strongly supports the bill. Several cabinet members and top White House staff have participated in various events over the last few weeks to urge its passage. In a November 29 conference call, Intergovernmental Affairs Director Cecilia Munoz referred to this as "an all hands on deck kind of moment."

The Conference of Mayors adopted policy calling on Congress to pass the DREAM Act during the 2009 annual meeting in Providence. On November 30, Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran sent letters to all members of Congress urging passage of the DREAM Act during the lame duck session and an alert to mayors asking them to contact members of their delegations and urge them to support the DREAM Act when it came up for a vote.

The DREAM Act, which has bipartisan support, is intended to address the situation faced by young people who were brought to the United States years ago as undocumented immigrant children and who have since grown up here, stayed in school, and kept out of trouble about 65,000 students each year. They are young people who have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives, but face unique barriers to higher education, are unable to work legally in the U.S., and often live in constant fear of detection by immigration authorities.

The DREAM Act would enact two major changes in current law by:

  • Permitting most students with good moral character who came to the U.S. at age 15 or younger at least five years before the date of the bill's enactment to apply for temporary legal status and to eventually obtain permanent status and become eligible for U.S. citizenship if they go to college or serve in the U.S. military; and

  • Eliminating a federal provision that penalizes states that provide in'state tuition without regard to immigration status.

The DREAM Act also would have a beneficial effect on the country by allowing these students to attend and graduate from college, hold jobs in the U.S., and pay taxes. It would provide an opportunity for them to live up to their full potential and make greater contributions to the U.S. economy and society.