Will Congress Vote on DREAM Act for Illegal Immigrants in 2010?

Video: Student immigrant Isabel Castillo talks about DREAM Act.
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They came through for him during a tight reelection campaign in Nevada. Now Hispanic voters are looking to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to return the favor.

Reid has promised a Senate vote this year on a small piece of immigration legislation known as the DREAM Act, which would give hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants a conditional path to legal residency.

"The answer is yes," Reid told Univision host Jorge Ramos in October when pressed about whether there will be a vote. "I have the right to bring that up any time I want."

As Congress reconvenes this week for the final session of the year, Reid now has roughly a month to make good on his promise.

Many immigrants and immigrant advocates, particularly Hispanics, have been disappointed by Congress' inaction on legislation to address the situation of millions of the country's undocumented immigrants, particularly those who are young children.

However, Republican opposition to efforts to legalize undocumented immigrants, a packed end-of-year legislative agenda and a bleak track record for controversial bills during lame-duck sessions all cast doubt on chances of the bill's passage this year.

The DREAM Act would grant legal status to immigrants who complete college or at least two years of military service and maintain "good moral character." It would apply to immigrants younger than 36 years old who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children under the supervision of their parents.

"We are very confident this will come up for a vote," said Flavia de la Fuente of the adovacy group DreamActivist.org. "We are confident that the American people and that the moderate GOP will make the right choice when it comes to investing in the future of this country."

Reid attempted to attach the measure as an amendment to the defense authorization bill in September, drawing intense protest from Republicans, who accused the Democrat of playing pre-election politics.

Ultimately, Republicans blocked the effort to bring the defense bill to the floor for debate, precluding a chance of adding the DREAM Act. The bill also included a repeal of the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy.

"We're going to vote on the Dream Act; it's only a question of when," Reid said after the vote. "It's a question of fairness. This is not the end of this."

Many activists on both sides of the issue agree, however, that chances of the bill's passage are only going to grow dimmer with an influx of Republicans set to join the House and Senate in January.

Roy Beck, president of Numbers USA, a group that favors tighter immigration controls and supports Republicans' efforts to block the DREAM Act, said the measure is flawed.

"Some of these [immigrants] are compelling cases, no doubt about it," said Beck. "But you've got to draw some lines a lot narrower than the DREAM Act draws them. This is about giving millions of illegal aliens permanent work permits, and I don't think in this economy that this is a very happy time to be doing that."

President Obama supports the legislation, as does Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who says it would help recruitment, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who says it's "the right thing to do for our country."

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