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Congress to vote on DREAM Act Today

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the DREAM Act later this morning. This is the first significant piece of legislation to actually help immigrants in over a decade. On Monday, over in the Senate, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a cloture motion to end debate to avoid a filibuster on S. 3992. Another attempt to get 60 votes is anticipated for this afternoon. Supporters should call or email Congress this morning:

Representatives: 1-866-967-6018 Senators: 1-866-966-5161
Representative and Senators

A Congressional Budget Office report released earlier this week stated that DREAM would cut the deficit by $1.4 billion and would bring in $2.3 billion in revenues over the next decade. This supports what Dreamers and their advocats as well as other economic researchers have been saying all along, that legalizing close to two million young people who have grown up here for most of their lives is a net economic benefit to the country if we keep them in school. It also helps our military with preparedness. The Obama Administration is supporting the DREAM Act. More importantly, over 70% of the public supports the DREAM Act.

Senator Reid introduced the 5th version of the bill last week as S. 3992. The new version makes the DREAM Act more difficult for young people to qualify and is an obvious attempt to broker a compromise with Senators who were on the fence despite earlier versions of DREAM Act having been supported by both sides of the aisle for close to a decade now. S.3992 would allow students who were brought to the U.S. before age 16 and have been here for at least five years to file for a new “conditional non-immigrant status”, a status not found elsewhere in the immigration laws. They would need to be in such status for 10 years rather than the previously proposed six years before they could obtain lawful permanent residence. They could become U.S. citizens once they have held green cards for three years. Obviously, the lengthy process was meant to prevent these young people from sponsoring their parents anytime soon, which they cannot do anyway until they are over 21 and are U.S. citizens. Ironically, complaints from the anti-immigrant crowd that DREAM would benefit too many older adults and not just young people will be the result anyway with a 10+-year program. 29 is the age-limit to apply but a 29-year-old will not have a green card until he or she is 39. Meanwhile, other provisions of the Senate version would prevent students receiving in-state tuition rates and would prevent them from qualifying if they have certain misdemeanors. In both bills, applicants would need to complete high school or earn a GED, enroll in higher education or join the military, pass an English and civics exam and pay back taxes if not paid previously. The Senate bill would also require good moral character since date of entry versus date of enactment.

Other tweaks to the DREAM Act may occur today or in the next week including incorporation of AgJobs provisions to help farmers and farmworkers. As I mentioned in my earlier post, Pass the DREAM Act: A Good Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste, the devil is in the details of any bill that passes and the regulatory interpretations and agency implementation that follow. This certainly isn’t the best bill that it could be. The art of compromising usually ends up in a morass of complicated legislation that lawyers have to decipher. No doubt the final version, if it passes at all, will reflect the misunderstandings of anti-immigrant legislators about the day-to-day implementation of the bill that immigration practitioners and the agencies involved have to deal with when it comes to applying the law to real people at the end of the day. But, if DREAM passes, at least it will be a start toward normalizing the lives of so many young people.