U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is urging Congress to pass the DREAM Act because, she says, “it would help improve immigration enforcement.” The U.S. Senate is expected to reconsider the proposed legislation soon.
Napolitano said in a conference call with reporters Thursday that the Department of Homeland Security has set as a priority the deportation of “criminal aliens,” such as drug smugglers and human traffickers.
“What doesn’t make sense,” Napolitano said, “is spending our enforcement resources to prosecute young people who have no criminal records, who came here of no fault of their own.” She added that it would help enforcement to take out of the pool of undocumented immigrants young people who are going to school and working hard and are the “least culpable.”
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, would provide a path to legalization for undocumented high school graduates who meet certain criteria and complete two years of college or military service. The bill had bipartisan support when it was first introduced in Congress back in 2001, but these days, its most vocal supporters are Democrats. Republican support for the bill is weak.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, filed a new version of the DREAM Act that Napolitano said contained changes intended to address some of the concerns of some senators.
Those changes generally increase the restrictions for those eligible to benefit from the act, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association. For instance, anyone who had been convicted of a criminal offense punishable by a term of more than one year or three misdemeanors would not be eligible. It says applicants must have paid all taxes, and it reduces the age of those who are eligible from 35 years old to 30 years old on the date of enactment.
Napolitano said her agency had worked with Congress to revise the bill.
She added that the bill should not be a substitute for comprehensive immigration reform, which she stressed several times during the call is much needed.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.