by Moses Apsan, Esq.
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.
It was Obama, speaking in El Paso on Tuesday, who called on Congress to pass the DREAM Act. 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. And we’ve already had a series of meetings about this at the White House in recent weeks. 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.
"Our immigration laws prevent thousands of young people from fully contributing to our nation's future," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the bill's lead sponsor. "These young people ... are American in every sense except their technical legal status. ...These children are tomorrow's doctors, nurses, teachers, policemen, firefighters, soldiers and senators, and we should give them the opportunity to reach their full potential."
But Republicans for the most part, are 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."
Congressman Luis Guitierrez a formidable fighter for immigrants rights, believes that the president should make immediate use of his executive powers to soften the blow of the current draconian immigration laws. He commented in an article for democracynow.org that :
We think the President should immediately take administrative actions. Look, the President of the United States has broad discretionary powers that are conferred upon him by the laws of this nation. We don’t need new laws. It’s nice, and I appreciate the President calling upon the nation to begin to work legislatively to pass the DREAM Act, to pass comprehensive immigration reform. But listen, the one million young men and women who could benefit from the DREAM Act should be given some shelter immediately. The President of the United States should simply respond, affirmatively, to 22 U.S. senators, including those that introduced the DREAM Act yesterday—Senator Durbin and Senator Reid—who asked him three weeks ago to do one thing: stop their deportation. He has the authority under the law to do that. He can’t legalize them. He can’t give them a sense of permanency. But he can give them relief, shelter, set them aside and say, "I’m not going to deport them, I’m not going to take prosecutorial action against them, until the Congress of the United States finally deals with the DREAM Act and votes on it one way or another." That’s the kind of champion, and that’s the kind of affirmative action we would hope from the President of the United States. At a time in which the Republicans are heaping on the immigrant community, where xenophobic tendencies here in the Congress are just at a high, we expect him to respond affirmatively in defending the immigrant community.
A study released last year by the Migration Policy Institute indicates that the DREAM Act could benefit up to 2.1 million undocumented youth, even though only about 825,000 would gain permanent legal status.
According to the Immigration Policy Center every year over 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school and even though many are at the top of their classes, they cannot go on to college, join the military, or get jobs after the graduate.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform, FAIR, an anti-immigration group opposing the DREAM Act calls it, “a sweeping illegal alien amnesty bill.”