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DREAM Act Coming Up Again

March 24, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

Latino students at the Purdue University Latino Cultural Center

It looks like Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) is going to reintroduce the DREAM Act early next week. It’s a controversial piece of legislation that would grant temporary residency for graduating high-school students who are immigrants and have not obtained legal permanent residency. To be eligible, students: had to enter the country as children; have been living in America for five years; and agree to attend college or enter military service. Students who comply would be granted a six-year temporary residency, which would be dependent on completion of a two-year degree and or military service. If they obtain the degree or fulfill the military service requirement, without violating other regulations, they would earn permanent residency.

Proponents of the bill argue current immigration law does not adequately address the problem of children who are living in America illegally, and that coupling permanent residency with college or military service ensures applicants are contributing to society.

Last year, the DREAM Act fell eight votes short of cloture in the Senate (see Donny’s detailed post for more). As with several other pieces of legislation in the 111th Congress, however, this time around the bill has a supporter in the White House. President Barack Obama helped to pass similar legislation while in the Illinois state legislature, and has voiced support for the federal legislation on the campaign trail.

Critics contend the legislation would spend federal money on undocumented immigrants at the expense of American citizens, and that the bill would encourage illegal immigration. They also argue that citizens and residents would be forced to compete with undocumented immigrants for spots in college and university classes.

The education factor is a big one — while the legislation does not appropriate funds for students, it would enable eligible immigrants to obtain in-state tuition rates at schools in some states. According to the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education, 65,000 undocumented immigrants in America graduate high school each year.

Of course, OpenCongress will have full text of the legislation as soon as it becomes available.

Image (used under a Creative Commons license) by Lumina Foundation.

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