Immigration groups are mounting a new effort on the long-debated DREAM Act by trying to attach the education and citizenship measure to a defense bill moving through the U.S. Senate this week.
The DREAM Act, which would give illegal immigrants legal status partly through higher education, has long been a major priority for many education groups. It also was included in comprehensive immigration legislation that failed earlier this year.
After that defeat, however, advocates said they believed the DREAM bill was less controversial than other immigration proposals and vowed to add it to other legislation moving through Congress this fall.
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate’s second-highest-ranking Democrat, wants to offer the act as an amendment to the 2008 defense authorization bill this week, said Josh Bernstein, federal policy director at the National Immigration Law Center in Washington, D.C.
“It’s not easy,” he told Diverse, adding that anti-immigrant groups are fighting the move.
“We’re hoping it will come up this week,” he said, noting that the measure may come up on the Senate floor any time from Wednesday to Friday. “It’s hanging in the balance right now.”
Even before introduction of the amendment, however, anti-immigration groups are mobilizing the same forces that helped defeat the comprehensive immigration bill earlier this year. They are criticizing DREAM Act as another “amnesty” to illegal immigrants.
In a Web alert, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) urged its supporters to call the Senate to fight the measure. FAIR says the phone calls are working, since the plan has yet to see the light in the Senate.
“The DREAM Act amounts to a massive amnesty under the guise of being sympathetic to kids,” said Dan Stein, FAIR president. “Unfortunately, sympathy for one group of illegal aliens would come at a huge cost to other people’s children.”
While supporters say the DREAM Act would help youth who otherwise may have limited access to education and high-paying jobs, Stein discounted that argument.
“While the kids may not have made the decision to break the law, the reasons most parents migrate illegally is ‘to do better for their families,’” Stein said. “What better inducement could there be for illegal immigration than a green card and a subsidized college education for their kids?”
Short for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, the DREAM bill would give young illegal immigrants legal status if they have graduated from high school and lived in the U.S. for five consecutive years. The students could obtain a temporary permit and, later, permanent residency if they complete at least two years in college or the military.
Another provision of the DREAM Act would give states the right grant illegal immigrants in-state tuition.
– Charles Dervarics
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