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Where Do Presidential Candidates Stand on The DREAM Act?

As the presidential race heats up, a segment of the non-voting population as well as voters on both sides of the debate to help undocumented students access college will be watching to see where the candidates stand on the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act).

This failed federal legislation would have provided permanent legal residency for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, under the age 16, by their parents. Under the latest version, they would need to complete two years of college or enroll in the armed forces and would need to have lived in the U.S. for five years before applying for such status. The law would have also made it easier for undocumented students to access in-state tuition, rather than the higher out-of-state tuition that keeps many students from fulfilling their higher education dreams.

Because the U.S. Congress failed to pass the law, the DREAM Act has been a distant dream, and a crazy quilt of laws remain at the state level. In Arizona this month, voter-approved Proposition 300 took effect, and nearly 4,000 students at universities and community colleges were denied in-state tuition after failing to prove legal residency, according to the state’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee report.

Although undocumented residents can’t vote, citizen on both sides of the debate are considering where the parties stand on immigration. Fifty-seven percent of Latinos, the nation’s largest and fastest growing minority group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, self-identify as Democrats or are leading towards the Democratic Party, according to a newly released nationwide survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center. The center states that although Latinos only comprise approximately 9 percent of voters nationwide, their votes could swing the presidential election because of their numbers in states that are expected to be hotly contested, including Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico.

Following are the presidential candidates and their positions on the DREAM Act.

Democratic Candidates

Sen. Hillary Clinton

Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York supports the DREAM Act, according to her official Web site. Clinton notes that U.S. immigration laws are inadequate and poorly reflect national values of respect and compassion. She advocates a strict but fair immigration policy that provides a way for undocumented residents to obtain legal residency while working towards citizenship. As part of that policy, Clinton “strongly” supports the DREAM Act, which she says “provides a path to citizenship through military service or higher education for children who were brought to the U.S. by their parents.”

Clinton also provided the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) with a statement voicing her support of the DREAM Act: “I will continue to strongly support the DREAM Act, which enables undocumented students to pursue higher education, attend college legally, and pursue legal residency. Access to college is part of the American dream and we have to make it easier for all individuals to get there, and to graduate… As President, I will work even harder to build a stronger America for everyone. I am committed to a diverse administration that reflects America. Diversity is not a campaign slogan or a catchy phrase… it is a commitment to government that reflects the people it serves,” she says.

Sen. John Edwards

Sen. Edwards’ camp released this prepared statement to Diverse, made in October 2007, about Edwards’ support for the DREAM Act. “Immigration is central to the story of America, but today our immigration system needs a fundamental overhaul. Our security is threatened by borders we cannot control. Our economy is harmed by an underground economy featuring a large and unprotected labor force. And our values are violated when 12 million people live in the shadows of our society, vulnerable to abuse and fearful of deportation,” he said.

“We need to overhaul our immigration laws and that should include giving children who grew up here the opportunity to build a better life. I co-sponsored the DREAM Act when I was in the Senate to give young people who consider the United States their home, have worked hard in school, and have stayed out of trouble, the chance to go to college and pursue their dreams.

“And it simply should not even be a matter for debate that young men and women who proudly wear our nation’s uniform, who demonstrate their willingness to fight and die for this country, should receive all the opportunity that America has to offer,” Edwards said.


Sen. Barack Obama

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois supports the DREAM Act. Obama’s campaign headquarters provided the following quote from a statement about his support for the DREAM Act to HACU: “Our immigration policy should be legal, orderly, humane, and safe. And we should give immigrant children the chance to attend college. I supported and helped pass the Illinois state version of the DREAM Act, and I have worked hard with Senator Durbin to move the federal version of the bill through the Senate. I believe that all students, regardless of national origin, deserve an equal opportunity to a high quality public education. Under current law, students who were brought to the United States years ago as undocumented immigrant children and who have stayed and excelled in and out of school have no hope of attending college with affordable in-state tuition.”

Republican Candidates

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani

When it comes to immigration, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani states on his official Web site: “Real immigration reform must put security first because border security and homeland security are inseparable in the Terrorists’ War on Us. The first responsibility of the federal government is to protect our citizens by controlling America’s borders, while ending illegal immigration and identifying every non-citizen in our nation. We must restore integrity, accountability and the rule of law to our immigration system to regain the faith of the American people.”

Giuliani does not state on the site where he stands on the DREAM Act, and his team did not return calls to Diverse.

Gov. Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, has a hard-line stance regarding the DREAM Act and any other immigration policy that would allow undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition.

Huckabee states on his official Web site: “I oppose and will never allow amnesty. I opposed the amnesty President Bush and Senator McCain tried to ram through Congress this summer, and opposed the misnamed DREAM Act, which was a nightmare because it would have put us on the slippery slope to amnesty for all. Because once we open that door even a crack, we’ll never get it closed again.”

Sen. John McCain

Arizona Sen. John McCain is on the front lines of immigration reform in his home state. McCain has served as an advocate for educating undocumented students and allowing students in good standing to obtain a college education while paying in-state tuition.

McCain was a co-sponsor of The DREAM Act of 2007, and an earlier Senate bill that provided for comprehensive immigration reform, including the DREAM Act of 2006. McCain was a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act of 2005.

Gov. Mitt Romney

On his official Web site, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney accuses fellow candidates Giuliani and Huckabee, and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, for being soft on immigration. His record as governor of Massachusetts includes vetoing a plan that would have permitted undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities.

Yet, Romney advocates immigration law reforms that would allow undocumented college graduates to remain legally in the United States. He says on his Web site that this would keep American globally competitive by providing for an educated workforce.

–Dina Horwedel

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