Sen. Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, was unable yesterday to get enough support from other lawmakers to include the “DREAM Act” as an amendment to a U.S. Department of Defense authorization bill, according to an e-mail message sent to me by his staff. The amendment would have provided a path to legalization for undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college or serve in the military for at least two years—and meet certain other criteria.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, however, voiced his support for the DREAM Act on the U.S. Senate floor yesterday and made a commitment to move the measure forward by Nov. 16, according to a transcript of his speech forwarded to me by Sen. Durbin’s staff.
When Sen. Durbin first introduced a version of the bill to the U.S. Senate in 2001, he called it the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act.
Here’s an excerpt from Mr. Reid’s speech: “Many of the children this bill would help are extremely talented and have graduated at the top or near the top of their classes but yet can’t get to a state school. What a waste to make it more difficult for them to go to college or prohibit them from getting jobs when they could be making meaningful contributions to the communities and to our country.”
As you can tell by the comments on this blog, however, critics of the DREAM Act oppose it because they feel it would provide a form of “amnesty” for undocumented people who are living in this country.
While for years the DREAM Act contained a provision clarifying that states could provide in-state college tuition rates for undocumented students who were eligible to benefit from the act, that provision was dropped in the version of the act filed in the U.S. Senate last week.
In a telephone conversation this morning, Melissa Lazarin, who followed the DREAM Act for years for the National Council of La Raza and now is monitoring it for a children’s advocacy organization called First Focus, told me it was “a reasonable compromise” for lawmakers supporting the DREAM Act to drop the in-state tuition provision, to increase the chances of gaining support for the measure. The most important part of the measure is that it would provide a path to legalization for some undocumented students, she said.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.