In a preview of the immigration debate, Congress is getting ready to consider a bill that would provide a path to citizenship to undocumented students who graduate from college, a trade school or join the military.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was introduced in both the Senate and the House last Thursday, in the latest incarnation of an initiative that has failed to pass several times since 2003.
According to a press release from the office of Sen. Richard Lugar (R.-Ind.),
The measure would grant conditional legal status to youth who successfully complete high school or equivalent. They then would have six years to graduate from college or a trade school or join the military. If successful in one of those areas, the conditional legal status would become permanent and they could then move towards U.S. citizenship.
“Approximately 50,000 undocumented students graduate from high schools each year; however, without legal status, it is difficult for them to secure a job or afford to attend college,” Lugar said. “This measure will provide these young people with an incentive to move towards permanent residency while pursuing an education or other worthwhile service.
“Undocumented young people usually arrive with their families and have no understanding of their immigration status. They should be encouraged to complete an education and move toward permanent residency.”
To be eligible, youngsters must have entered the U.S. before they were 16 and have spent five years in the country before the date of the bill’s becoming law. They need to “have earned a high school diploma or GED, be a person of good moral character; and not be inadmissible or deportable under criminal or security grounds of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
The bill has at least some bipartisan support: it was introduced by Lugar and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois in the Senate, and by Representatives Howard Berman (D.-Calif.) and Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R.-Fla.) in the House.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, “versions of the DREAM Act have been considered, without much success, in 2003, 2005, 2006 and as part of a large immigration reform package in 2007.”
As we have reported in the past, immigrant students and other Dream Act supporters hope the bill will pass this time — and they count on an important ally in the White House: President Barack Obama, who expressed support for it during the presidential campaign.
Activists are conducting several campaigns to support passage of the bill. The blog Citizen Orange lists the following:
– The National Council of La Raza is encouraging people to call their Congressional representatives.
– America’s Voice asks people to fax their representatives.
– Change.org is asking for emails to Congress.
– And those interested can also text “Justice”, or “Justicia” for Spanish, to 69866 to be the first to know when the DREAM Act is introduced, courtesy of FIRM.
Information is also available at Dream Act 2009.
While pro-immigrant activists welcomed the news of the bill’s introduction, the immigration-restrictionist camp is getting ready to oppose it.
“The shamnesty crowd is ready to roll again,” conservative columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin wrote. “The illegal alien college tuition discount bill … has been reintroduced.”