Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

DREAM Act Gets New Push in U.S. Senate

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

DREAM Act Gets New Push in U.S. Senate

Article excerpt

The long-debated DREAM Act received new visibility this summer thanks to U.S. Senate approval of a comprehensive immigration bill. But the measure, which includes DREAM Act provisions, faces an uncertain future in the House of Representatives.

The legislation recently approved by the Senate would provide undocumented students with a five-year path to permanent legal residency. To qualify, individuals must have entered the U.S. before age 16, graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) and completed at least two years of college.

The five-year process means "Dreamers" could move to legal status faster than other undocumented individuals who could face up to a 13-year process under the Senate legislation, developed by the so-called "Gang of Eight," which ranges from liberals such as Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to conservatives such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Other members are Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Most analysts consider the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744, a major step forward for supporters of the DREAM Act, which has languished in Congress for years. The plan attempts to help undocumented individuals who were brought to the U.S. as minor children and face limitations on access to college, jobs and financial aid. It would prevent their deportation and open a pathway to permanent legal status and citizenship.

"Immigration reform that creates a real roadmap to citizenship for millions of Americans, ends senseless deportations and reunites families is within our sights," says Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, a pro-DREAM Act organization. "Dreamers will keep fighting, confronting politicians and challenging them to lead and organizing thousands of undocumented youth across the country."

College-going Dreamers got additional support when the Senate added an amendment, proposed by Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, to the legislation that would give Dreamers access to federal student aid programs such as work-study and student loans, but not Pell Grants.

"Right now, students who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own can't get access to any federal aid. No work study. No government-backed student loans. Nothing," says Hirono in advocating for her plan.

Such action can help bring immigrants into the mainstream, says Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. …

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