CHN: DREAM Denied for Immigrant Youth
On a rare Saturday Senate session on December 18, supporters of the DREAM Act filled the Senate gallery to see if the Senate would make it possible for young immigrants who have grown up in this country to secure legal status if they attend college or serve in the military. Ten days prior, the House passed the bill, H.R. 5281, on a vote of 216-198. Given that the President is a strong supporter of the legislation, all that was needed to make the bill the law of the land was the Senate’s approval. As Senators cast their decisive votes, suspended in the air were the hopes, dreams and aspirations of thousands of young immigrants who have been living here since childhood but due to their undocumented status are unable to contribute fully to the place they call home. The DREAM Act would provide these youth the opportunity to adjust their status after meeting certain criteria over a ten-year period. The bill was first introduced to Congress in 2001 and since the beginning has garnered bipartisan support. For a summary of the bill see the National Immigration Law Center’s fact sheet.
Despite having the support of the majority of Senators, the DREAM Act fell five votes short of securing the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster in the Senate. The vote on cutting off debate (cloture) failed 55-41. Three Republicans voted in favor of the measure; five Democrats voted against. Advocates found it a bitter disappointment that Senators Brownback (R-KS), Collins (R-ME), Hatch (R-UT), Hutchinson (R-TX), McCain (R-AZ), Nelson (D-NE) and Snowe (R-ME), who had supported or voted for the bill in the past, failed to vote for cloture. Through tears and disappointment, DREAM Act supporters vowed to continue fighting for the bill.
Every year that passes thousands more students graduate from high school and are denied the opportunity to realize their dreams and make a full contribution to this country. The dreams and stories of some of the would-be beneficiaries of the DREAM Act are captured in the DREAM Act 2010 Yearbook produced by the National Immigration Law Center and a coalition of civil rights, education, child advocacy, and labor organizations. Failure to pass the DREAM Act is not just their loss. The country stands to gain from giving young people the chance to contribute. According to the National Immigration Law Center the DREAM Act would reduce the federal deficit by $2.2 billion over 10 years.