by Regina Cantu @ Matt.org
No sooner did President Obama finish his speech in Texas on Tuesday, announcing his backing of a complete immigration overhaul, did Democrats Sen. Richard Durbin reintroduced the following day the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, and Majority Whip Richard Durbin and 30 others of their colleagues have signed on to support the bill, which failed in Congress last year.
The Dream Act would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants who entered the United States prior to their 16th birthday provided they attend college or serve in the military, and meet various other conditions. According to the Immigration Policy Center, about 65,000 undocumented students brought to the U.S. by their parents as very young children, graduate from high school each year and face a bleak future because of their status.
A study released last year by the Migration Policy Instituteindicates that the DREAM Act could benefit up to 2.1 million undocumented youth, even though only about 825,000 would gain permanent legal status.
Unfortunately, Republicans are largely against the Dream Act. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said he sympathizes with these children. [However,] “[t]he DREAM Act doesn’t solve our illegally immigration problem, it exacerbates it. Amnesty will encourage millions more parents to bring their children to the U.S. illegally.”
Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition welcomed the move, but pointed out that the bill faces a slim chance in the current Congress and said the President should use the authority of his office to protect young undocumented immigrants.
“In the meantime, given the legislative reality, we call on the President to use his executive authority to grant deferred action to young people who would be eligible for the DREAM Act—which would allow these young people to come out of the shadows to live and work without the threat of deportation until Congress passes the DREAM Act.”
The Immigration Policy Center released a statement with a similar message.
“If Congress fails to act, the Administration can and should take more decisive steps to ensure that the values driving their legislative agenda are reflected in their implementation and interpretation of current law. DHS should ensure that its officers use their prosecutorial discretion to defer the removal of any eligible student caught up in the broken immigration system.”
In his immigration speech on Tuesday in El Paso, even though he called on Congress to pass the DREAM Act, President Obama explicitly said he would not use his executive powers to stop deportations. He denounced the current situation which he terms “cruel” and said “makes no sense.” As President Obama put it:
“So we’re going to keep fighting for the DREAM Act. We’re going to keep up the fight for reform. And that’s where you come in. I’m going to do my part to lead a constructive and civil debate on these issues…We’ve got leaders here and around the country helping to move the debate forward. But this change ultimately has to be driven by you, the American people. You’ve got to help push for comprehensive reform, and you’ve got to identify what steps we can take right now, like the DREAM Act, like visa reform, areas where we can find common ground among Democrats and Republicans and begin to fix what’s broken.a comprehensive plan for modify the immigration laws and to strengthen border security.”
It’s been 10 years since the bill was first introduced by Sen. Durbin. Last fall, despite President Obama’s strong support, the DREAM Act passed the House but failed to attract the 60 votes needed to end a Senate filibuster.