The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) was first introduced in the U.S. Senate back in 2001 (S-1291) by Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. It was followed by a U.S. House of Representatives version, entitled the American Dream Act (HR-1918).
Both versions, which would have provided alien minors with conditional permanent residency, were defeated. Over the past decade, similar bills have been introduced regularly with the most recent ones sponsored by Senate and House Democrats.
The latest version (S-729) was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and inserted in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (S-3454). It was defeated on Sept. 21, 2010, by a 56-43 vote, but on the following day, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., reintroduced the bill.
Immigration advocate groups have opined that the Senate had the votes with a Democratic majority, but the leadership didn’t have the willpower to do it, even with Durbin ranking as the No. 2 Democratic senator. Immigrant advocates wondered whether Sen. Reid would put the DREAM Act up for a vote, or would he decide to lose the Latino vote.
Both Reid and Durbin realized that a majority of U.S. voters oppose the DREAM Act and therefore some Democratic senators would vote nay. President Barack Obama clearly did not expend any political capital on its passage even in a midterm election year.
Support of the bill by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lends veracity to the charge that the DREAM Act is purely a political move. The Democrat strategy would use the lame-duck Democrat majority in the Senate and House to ram through ultra-liberal legislation, such as the DREAM Act, prior to the swearing in of newly elected Republicans.
Should this strategy fail, the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) office in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security suggests the DREAM Act could be adapted as a non-legislative option for offering amnesty to hundreds of thousands of undocumented aliens.
To be eligible for the DREAM Act, an illegal immigrant must be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time the Act is enacted.
DREAM “children” (who at 35 could have children or grandchildren of their own) must have arrived in the United States before the age of 16 and must have resided in the United States continuously (no slipping back and forth across the border). During at least five consecutive years since the date of their arrival on U.S. soil, these “children” must have graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a general equivalency diploma (GED) and have good moral character. In return, DREAM “children” would earn conditional permanent residency.
One feature of the Act would allow DREAM “children” who enlist in the U.S. military to be considered equally with those working toward a college degree.
Academia supports the DREAM Act, contending that illegal alien students should not be held liable for the immigration status of their parents and that education is the key to America’s future progress.
Unmentioned, though, are the costs of education and the lack of a guarantee that DREAM children will stay in the United States after taxpayers provide their education. An estimated 65,000 DREAM “children” would be eligible for all benefits provided to U.S. citizens (ages 12 to 18). In addition, many DREAM “children” could qualify for minority entitlements, causing U.S. citizens to lose out on college placement and financial aid.
Current immigration regulations provide that children who immigrate, legally, to the United States can only obtain permanent status through their parents and may not apply independently for residency. In contrast, DREAM “children” could apply to bring in parents and other relatives under current family reunification provisions.
Immigrant advocates have a cautious ally in the White House. Obama, as a U.S. Senator in 2007, voted against an amendment that would permanently bar immigration by gang members, terrorists, and other criminals (SA-1184). He also voted against an amendment that would have enabled state and local officials to inquire about a person’s immigration status (SA-1158). That same year, he voted for the ill-fated DREAM Act (S-2205).
Under current federal law, immigration and naturalization procedures remain poorly administered, and investigations are haphazard. The U.S. Congress is to blame for failed oversight.
A prime example is the recent case of Feisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan. On Oct. 5, 2010, in the United States District Court in New York City, Shahzad was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the terrorist attempt at Times Square. The judge asked the naturalized citizen if he swore allegiance to the United States when he was naturalized in 2009. Shahzad replied, “I did swear, but I did not mean it.” This case and the ever more facile pathway to citizenship offered by the DREAM Act are part of a growing concern for the nation.
On Nov. 2, 2010, U.S. citizens will be provided the opportunity to have their voices heard on immigration. Their votes can affirm that enforcement of current federal immigration law is essential for national security, national sovereignty, and the very survival of the nation.
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