Bill Will Help Immigrant Students Earn Path to Legal Status
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and 30 other Senators introduced the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act today - a narrowly tailored bill to give undocumented students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing.
"Our immigration laws prevent thousands of young people from fully contributing to our nation's future. These young people have lived in this country for most of their lives. It is the only home they know. They are American in every sense except their technical legal status," said Assistant Senate Majority Leader and author of the DREAM Act, Dick Durbin. "They are honor roll students, star athletes, talented artists and valedictorians. 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."
"The DREAM Act will give children brought to this nation by their parents through no fault of their own -- children who in many cases have known no other country -- the opportunity to earn legal status. Only those who stay in school and out of trouble, and who go on to college or to defend our country in the armed forces would be eligible. Allowing these students to become productive citizens is not only good for them -- it makes economic sense, would reduce our deficit by $2.2 billion in a decade and would strengthen our military and national security," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
"We should not punish children for their parents' past decisions. The students who would be helped by the DREAM Act did not make the decision to enter this country in an undocumented fashion. They've followed the rules, worked hard in school and now they want to serve this country in the military or get a higher education. Equally important, they love the United States, the only home many of them have known, and should be permitted to continue here in pursuit of the American Dream," Senator Robert Menendez said.
Due to their undocumented status, tens of thousands of immigrant students with good grades are shut out of the American dream. These students have no choice in the matter because they were brought to the United States by their parents at a young age and have spent most of their lives in America. Yesterday, in a speech on the need for immigration reform, President Obama said, "These are kids who grew up in this country, love this country, and know no other place as home. The idea that we would punish them is cruel and it makes no sense. We are a better nation than that."
"The DREAM Act is a critical step to reforming our immigration system," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). "This legislation will enable a well-deserving group of young people to better serve our country. I was disappointed last year when the Senate was not allowed to even debate the DREAM Act, but I am committed to working with Senator Durbin, Leader Reid and others to advance this important bill."
"This narrowly tailored legislation would give young, undocumented immigrants who grew up in the United States the opportunity to earn legal residency by obtaining an education or joining the military. I am proud to cosponsor the DREAM Act for one simple reason: this will enable these children, who are in America not due to their own action, but those of their parents, to reach their potential and contribute to a stronger, more prosperous America," said Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA).
"I am convinced we must adopt smart immigration reform to advance our national security, our economic vitality, and our historic values. Today, I have joined in introducing a critical piece of such reform -- offering a path to citizenship for young adults who have grown up in this country, achieved here, and want a chance to continue their lives as productive members of our society. This is the right choice for these deserving young adults and for our own national interests. These individuals embody the education and work ethic we promote, and we should let them remain here to strengthen our military, our economy and society as a whole," said Senator Joe Lieberman (I -- CT).
"As a former educator and a veteran, I believe that our youth should have the opportunity to reach their potential through college education and military service," said Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI). "The DREAM Act will strengthen our armed forces, add to our skilled workforce, and contribute to our economy, while offering an opportunity for these young adults to pursue the promise of our nation."
"I am concerned about the many young adults who have worked hard to contribute to this country but, through no fault of their own, find themselves without legal status," Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said. "Many were brought to this country as children years ago, attended school here, and consider the United States home. I support the DREAM Act because I believe it is in the country's best interest to give talented youth who have good moral character and are dedicated to serving the United States the opportunity to succeed."
"It is long past time to provide a path to success for these bright and hard-working young people, who grew up here and call America home. Our country is stronger when we nurture our best and brightest," Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said.
"This nation was built on the belief that no matter where we start from in life, we all have a shot at the American dream. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way the belief that we should now turn our backs on certain children in our communities has gained a voice," said Senator Murray (D-WA). "We have thousands of dedicated, motivated and gifted students ready to serve our country in the military and succeed in college classes. It's time to say "yes' to those students, "yes' to the DREAM Act, and 'yes' to a richer, stronger, more vibrant American Dream for generations to come."
"This common sense legislation will help thousands of immigrant students who meet rigorous requirements to earn a path to legal status by contributing to our country through military service or by getting a college education," said Senator Tom Carper (D-DE). "These students have excelled in U.S. schools and they deserve the opportunity to serve their communities by graduation from college and getting a job, or joining the U.S. military."
"This is a compassionate bill that recognizes that we should not hold innocent children responsible for the sins of their parents. The DREAM Act is targeted legislation that addresses thousands of undocumented children who were brought to this country before the age of 16. It would have provided a stringent pathway for young men and women who have graduated high school to give back to their adopted country and local communities through military service or to complete a higher education," said Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD).
"America prides itself on being a land of opportunity. But for some students, the opportunity to meet their full potential is out of reach through no fault of their own. We should be doing more to encourage promising young people to go to college or serve in the armed services. This bill helps open the doors for those students while enriching our nation as a whole," said Senator Merkley (D-OR).
"Washington must take action to provide a common-sense fix to our broken immigration system. But in the absence of comprehensive reform, we should work to boost our economy, strengthen our armed forces and help hard-working kids achieve the American Dream by passing the DREAM Act," Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) said. "Instead of punishing these kids, we should reward them for working hard, and our nation will benefit from a stronger work force and a stronger economy. Taxpayers have already invested in the education of these kids. It makes sense to allow them to succeed and contribute to our economy."
"Young people brought to this country during their earliest childhood, knowing only America as their home, are precisely the reason we need the DREAM Act. These individuals attend our schools, befriend our children and serve our community and we should fulfill the promise of this country as a place for people who work hard and contribute," said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
In order to be eligible for the DREAM Act individuals must have:
* Come to the U.S. as children (15 or under)
* Be long-term U.S. residents (continuous physical presence for at least five years)
* Have good moral character
* Graduate from high school or obtain a GED
* Complete two years of college or military service in good standing
The DREAM Act would benefit the U.S. Armed Forces. Tens of thousands of highly-qualified, well-educated young people would enlist in the Armed Forces if the DREAM Act becomes law. The Defense Department's FY 2010-12 Strategic Plan includes the DREAM Act as a means to help "shape and maintain a mission-ready All Volunteer Force." Defense Secretary Gates, who supports the DREAM Act, says it "will result in improved recruitment results and attendant gains in unit manning and military performance." General Colin Powell has also endorsed the DREAM Act, saying, "Immigration is what's keeping this country's lifeblood moving forward."
The DREAM Act would stimulate the American economy. A UCLA study concluded that DREAM Act participants could contribute $1.4-$3.6 trillion to the U.S. economy during their working lives. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports the DREAM Act, says, "They are just the kind of immigrants we need to help solve our unemployment problem. It is senseless for us to chase out the home-grown talent that has the potential to contribute so significantly to our society."
The DREAM Act includes important restrictions to prevent abuse. DREAM Act participants are not eligible for Pell and other federal grants and are subject to tough criminal penalties for fraud. DREAM Act applicants must apply within one year of obtaining a high school degree/GED or the bill's enactment; and must prove eligibility by a preponderance of the evidence. To be eligible, an individual must submit biometric information; undergo background checks and a medical exam; register for the Selective Service; demonstrate the ability to read, write, and speak English; and demonstrate knowledge of the history and government of the U.S. An individual cannot qualify if he or she is ineligible for immigration relief on criminal or national security grounds.
The DREAM Act has broad bipartisan support in Congress and from the American people. In the 111th Congress, the DREAM Act passed the House and received a strong bipartisan majority vote from 55 Senators. According to a recent poll by Opinion Research Corporation, 70% of likely voters favor the DREAM Act, including 60% of Republicans.
The DREAM Act is supported by labor, business, education, civil rights and religious groups, including the AFL-CIO, the National PTA, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the CEOs of Fortune 100 companies like Microsoft and Pfizer, and dozens of colleges and universities.
The following Senators are also cosponsors of the DREAM Act: Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Carl Levin (D-MI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives today by Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).