U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer joined more than 30 of her Senate colleagues today to reintroduce the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The narrowly-tailored DREAM Act gives undocumented students a chance to earn legal status if they came to the U.S. as children, are long-term U.S. residents, demonstrate good moral character and complete two years of college or military service in good standing.
Senator Boxer said, “It is long past time to provide a path to success for these bright and hard-working young people, who grew up here and call America home. Our country is stronger when we nurture our best and brightest.”
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Due to their undocumented status, tens of thousands of immigrant students with good grades are shut out of the American dream. Through no fault of their own, these students were brought to the United States by their parents at a young age and have spent most of their lives here. As President Obama said in a speech yesterday on the need for immigration reform, “These are kids who grew up in this country, love this country, and know no other place as home. The idea that we would punish them is cruel and it makes no sense. We are a better nation than that.”
The DREAM Act would benefit the U.S. Armed Forces. The Defense Department’s FY 2010-12 Strategic Plan includes the DREAM Act as a means to help “shape and maintain a mission-ready All Volunteer Force.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who supports the DREAM Act, says it “will result in improved recruitment results and attendant gains in unit manning and military performance.” General Colin Powell has also endorsed the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act would stimulate the American economy. A UCLA study concluded that DREAM Act participants could contribute $1.4-$3.6 trillion to the U.S. economy during their working lives.
The DREAM Act includes important restrictions to prevent abuse. DREAM Act participants are not eligible for Pell and other federal grants and are subject to tough criminal penalties for fraud. DREAM Act applicants must apply within one year of obtaining a high school degree/GED or the bill’s enactment and must prove eligibility. To be eligible, an individual must submit biometric information; undergo background checks and a medical exam; register for the Selective Service; demonstrate the ability to read, write, and speak English; and demonstrate knowledge of the history and government of the U.S. An individual cannot qualify if he or she is ineligible for immigration relief on criminal or national security grounds.
The DREAM Act has broad bipartisan support in Congress and from the American people. In the 111th Congress, the DREAM Act passed the House and received a strong bipartisan majority vote from 55 Senators. According to a recent poll by Opinion Research Corporation, 70 percent of likely voters favor the DREAM Act, including 60 percent of Republicans.
The DREAM Act is supported by business, education, labor, civil rights and religious groups. The AFL-CIO, the National PTA, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the CEOs of Fortune 100 companies like Microsoft and Pfizer, and dozens of colleges and universities have all endorsed the DREAM Act.
A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives today by Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).