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DREAM Act Gets Its First Hearing Ever

June 29, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The DREAM Act, a bill that would give citizenship status to some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, received its first ever Senate committee hearing yesterday. The bill has been stalled in Congress since 2001. Yesterday’s hearing indicates that Democrats, with support from the White House, are launching a major effort to rally support around this ahead of the 2012 elections.

The bill would establish a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants under the age of 35 who entered the country at age 15 or younger and have graduated high school, obtained a GED, or served two years in the military. Applicants for citizenship under the bill would have to meet certain criteria designed to prevent the bill from being exploited and to weed out applicants that have been in trouble with the law.

The bill has a long history of bipartisan support, but when Senate Democrats held a last-minute vote on the DREAM Act last year it failed to secure enough support to overcome a filibuster, with 4 Democrats voting in favor of the filibuster and 5 Republicans crossing the line to vote against the filibuster. They then tried to add it to the 2011 Defense Authorization bill, but that bill ended up being filibustered as well. Since then, the last remaining Republican supporter, Sen. Richard Lugar [R, IN], has backed away. The bill now has zero Republican co-sponsors.

Obviously, with no Republican support in the Senate and the House under Republican leadership, getting the DREAM Act through either chamber, let alone through both and signed into law, is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Sen Dick Durbin [D, IL], the chief sponsor, told Politico that he was "going to look for the right opportunity to pass this bill and to have it signed by the president,” though he declined to comment on whether or not he would be trying to attach it to some other must-pass bill. No matter what happens, showing their support for this in what ever way they can will help Democrats shore up the Latino vote ahead of the election. With the chances for passage so slim, that may be what this is actually all about.

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