by Moses Apsan, Esq.
It's happening all over the country, thousand of students are lobbying congress for support of the Dream Act, which would legalize up to 2 million children that entered the U.S. before the age of sixteen.
Support for the Dream Act is snowballing into a possible vote in the Senate coming up next week. Not only are students, educators and religious organizations driving hard the value of legalizing these kids but so are politicians; perhaps even from both parties.
Nevada Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D), who without Latino vote would perhaps, not been reelected in his uphill battle against Sharon Angle and soon to be ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have made it clear that they will move on the Dream Act ( Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) in the lame-duck session of Congress.
Reid stated that "Currently, individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally years ago through no fault of their own have no way to legalize their immigration status and go to college to improve their lives," Reid said in a statement. "The DREAM Act would address this problem by providing that upon graduation from high school, young people who have stayed in school and out of trouble would be able to apply for conditional legal immigration status. This status would be made permanent if they continue on to college or serve in the military."
Even President Obama has finally joined in and after a recent meeting, the White House released a statement reasserting the president's backing for the bill. President Obama called on lawmakers to vote before this session expires.
Although Obama has been a fervent DREAM Act supporter,he has done little to move the act forward and in fact, has taken a hard line on immigration violations by having Homeland Security work methodically to locate and deport immigration violators and has simultaneously shored up the Mexican border.
Now Obama wants the DREAM Act passed in the lame duck session as a "down payment" on future comprehensive immigration reform.
The frenetic movement towards a vote is due to the limited time period before the Republicans take over the House and some seats in the Senate in January. With only 15 legislative days left in this session; time is of the essence. Comes January, the power shifts and the new republican congresses' focus will like be on "Bush tax cuts" and other pro corporate measures. The new congress will,undoubtedly have different priorities than the democratic congress of the last two years. The Dream Act will not be at the apex of their agenda.
We can be quite sure that republicans elected this midterms will join their colleagues and when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform. They will focus, instead to border enforcement, employer sanctions and temporary foreign work visas.
There were eleven republicans that voted for DREAM in 2007, but some have moved on , either replaced or retired. The new members will most likely may be unsympathetic to the any bill that legalizes illegal aliens, even if these aliens were innocently brought into the United States by their parents.
The Problem: To move forward comfortably in the Senate, there must be cloture which required 60 votes. The Democrats are still in control of the Senate in the next Congress, but they will not be able to do anything without the approval of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Without the 60 votes they cannot control Republican filibuster, which will tie up the Senate until January.
In other words, Senator Reid and his team will need "a few good republicans" to join them, Who knows how even democrats will eventually vote.
The DREAM Act is a bipartisan legislation pioneered by Sen. Orin Hatch [R-UT] and Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL] that can solve this injustice in our society. Under the though provisions of the DREAM Act, qualifying undocumented youths would be eligible for a 6 year long conditional path to citizenship that requires completion of a college degree or two years of military service. Conditional Permanent Residency is similar to Legal Permanent Residency in that you would be able to live legally in the U.S. , go to college, work, drive and travel. But it lasts for only 6 years. Students would be eligible for student loans and federal work-study programs, but will not be eligible for federal financial aid such as Pell Grants.
Who would Qualify for the Dream Act?
The following is a list of specific requirements one would need in order to qualify for the current version of the DREAM Act:
• Have proof of having arrived in the United States before age 16.
• Have proof of residence in the United States for a least five consecutive years since their date of arrival, compliance with Selective Service.
• Be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of bill enactment.
• Have graduated from an American high school or obtained a GED.
• Be of "good moral character"
How it works:
• "conditional" status would be granted during the first six years.
• the youth would be required to graduate from a two-year community college or complete at least two years towards a 4-year degree, or serve two years in the U.S. military.
• After the six year period, an youth who met at least one of these three conditions would be eligible to apply for legal permanent resident status.
• During this six year conditional period, these students would not be eligible for federal higher education grants such as Pell grants, but they would be able to apply for student loans and work study.
• If the youth did not meet the educational or military service requirement within the six year time period, their temporary residence would be revoked and they would be removable (deportable).
• They must not commit any crimes other than those considered non-drug related misdemeanors. Being convicted of a felony or drug-related infraction would automatically remove the six year temporary residence status and they would be subject to deportation.
• If the youth met all of these requirements at the completion of the 6-year conditional period, they would be granted permanent residency, and eventually will be eligible for U.S. citizenship.
The DREAM Act, which has been unable to clear republican filibuster threats for years, is fighting for its life to become law before the republican takeover of the Congress in January. Fear of the Tea Party anti-immigrant republicans and some say racist attitudes have fueled this final push during the lame duck session.
A statement from the National Immigration Law Center, which helps immigrants gain citizenship, said, "By bringing the long-overdue DREAM Act to a vote, Senator Reid has shown that he agrees with 70 percent of Americans who want to provide undocumented young men and women a chance to apply their full potential to making our country a better place to live."