ABC News’ Sunlen Miller and Devin Dwyer report: President Obama today joined top Congressional Democrats in urging Congress to pass a small piece of immigration legislation known as the DREAM Act before it adjourns for the year. The measure would give hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants a conditional path to legal residency.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has repeatedly promised a vote on the measure during the lame-duck session. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also expressed support for bringing a bill to the floor, although not until after Thanksgiving.
“This legislation has traditionally enjoyed support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers and would give young people who were brought as minors to the United States by their parents the opportunity to earn their citizenship by pursuing a college degree or through military service,” the White House said in a statement following the president’s closed-door meeting with leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus this afternoon.
The DREAM Act would apply to immigrants younger than 36 years old who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children under the supervision of their parents and have maintained "good moral character," among other requirements.
Immigrant advocates, including New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez and Reps. Nydia Velazquez of New York and Luis Gutierrez of Illinois who met with Obama today, have all urged the president to more aggressively lobby members of Congress to approve the legislation this year, since efforts to pass a comprehensive reform package have all but failed.
“He said he’s going to work on that list [of Republicans] with us,” said Gutierrez of the outreach effort in an interview on MSNBC.
Gutierrez said in a statement after the meeting with Obama that he and other Democratic leaders are confident Republicans who have voted for the DREAM Act in the past can be brought around to support the measure again this year.
The bill has had Republican co-sponsors in the years since it was first introduced in 2001. It was passed as part of a Senate immigration reform bill in 2006, although the package later failed in the House. In 2007, the DREAM Act was filibustered when it came up for an up-or-down vote.
“Passage of the DREAM Act is achievable right now,” said Gutierrez. “The policy of mass deportation is not working and is ripping apart communities and may only get worse under a Republican controlled House. We cannot squander this opportunity to save a million kids.”
Opponents of the measure, including many Republicans, say the bill is flawed and would unreasonably add legal workers to the workforce at a time when many Americans are out of jobs.
According to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, about 2 million of the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. could be eligible for legalization under the DREAM Act.
The group also estimates, however, that only 825,000 of those immigrants would ultimately take advantage of the law if it were enacted.