December 28, 2011- New York - On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King delivered his most memorable speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. His words, “I have a Dream” reverberates from the past to today’s “dreamers” who are facing something akin to Kings plea for racial equality and an end to discrimination. These “Dreamers” are fighting for their very existence. Brought to this country at a very young age, each of them are caught in 'limbo.’ They find themselves old enough to work, but cannot work legally, they are old enough to go to college but cannot get any financial assistance, they are old enough to drive but cannot obtain a driver’s license. Are they going to be relegated permanently to a purgatory like existence; not knowing where they belong or will their dream finally become a reality?
It was Senators Richard Durbin, Harry Reid, and Robert Menendez that re-introduced the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Last fall, the DREAM Act passed the House of Representatives, and garnered the support of a majority in the Senate, but was ultimately defeated when the Senate failed to invoke cloture and proceed to debate. The sponsors of the DREAM Act hope to build on last year’s momentum and continue to highlight the importance of fully utilizing the talent and potential of thousands of young people who are Americans in every way but their birth certificates.
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.
Although throughout his term, Obama has been verbally an enthusiastic Dream Act supporter, he has done little to move the bill forward. In fact, until recently, Obama took 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. But in the summer of 2011, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton issued two important memorandum on the use of prosecutorial discretion in immigration matters. Prosecutorial discretion applies to the agency’s authority to not enforce immigration laws against those individuals and groups that are in the process of deportation or removal proceedings. In other words a person not in deportation, at this time cannot make use of this memo.
The Morton Memo directs that ICE attorneys and employees to exercise prosecutorial discretion and desist from going after non-citizens with close family, educational, military, or other ties in the U.S. As an alternative, the memo orders them to apply their efforts for people who pose a threat to public safety or national security.
What this memo means to the “Dreamers” is that they now feel empowered to act without fear of deportation. On March 10th, undocumented immigrant advocacy organizations initiated the National Coming Out of the Shadows day. In the subsequent months hundreds of young people across the U.S. literally came out of the shadows, revealed themselves as undocumented and took part in protest marches . In essence their campaign is similar to Martin Luther King’s human rights campaign. During the various protest some of these young people were arrested. These arrests included four in Arizona, six in Chicago, seven in Atlanta, ten in North Carolina and five in Indiana. This is just the beginning.
If Obama could see his way to push congress to approve the Dream Act or even if he were to grant an Executive Order similar to the Dream Act proposed in the Senate, he would be assured of basically 100% of the Hispanic and other minorities vote in the November election. He would be a winner, the democratic party will hold on to their precious power and the dream of thousands of innocent people would come true, at last.