Study: DREAM Act Isn’t Likely to Benefit Many

By Mary Ann Zehr — July 16, 2010 2 min read
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A large number of the 2.1 million undocumented immigrants in this country who meet the age, duration of U.S. residency, and arrival age that would make them eligible for conditional legalization under a bill pending in Congress are not likely to attain legal status if the bill is enacted, says a study released this month by the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute.

The bill—called the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act—says that undocumented youths who meet certain criteria and attend college or serve in the military for at least two years would be put on the path to legalization. The bill was first introduced in Congress in 2001, but has never made it any further than being approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The DREAM Act was last introduced in 2009.

Many of the undocumented immigrants who it seems could be beneficiaries of the DREAM Act don’t have a high school education and have such limited English that it would be hard for them to be admitted to college or join the military, the researchers in the study conclude. One of the criteria for getting conditional legalization is having graduated from a U.S. high school. The researchers estimate that only about 825,000, or 38 percent, of the 2.1 million potential beneficiaries would eventually attain legal status. (The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available, the nation had 11.9 million undocumented immigrants.)

A staff member for U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., who has been the chief sponsor of the bill, told me in an e-mail that proponents will continue to try to get the bill passed as a stand-alone piece of legislation. He added that it’s most likely to be taken up as part of comprehensive immigration reform. Sen. Durbin told the Associated Press this week that it’s “very unlikely” Congress would pass the DREAM Act before the fall elections.

Student activists who want to see the DREAM Act enacted started this week to hold a “DREAM University teach-in” in the nation’s capital to raise awareness about the bill. The Associated Press reported yesterday that they set up a make-shift school in Lafayette Park across from the White House where local professors gave free classes.

In a July 1 speech at American University asking Congress to back comprehensive immigration reform, President Obama restated his support for the DREAM Act. He did not set a timetable for immigration reform to be addressed by Congress.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.