NASFAA Submits Testimony in Support of DREAM Act at Senate Hearing

Leading Senate Democrats and top Obama administration officials stressed the importance of passing the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act at a Senate subcommittee hearing yesterday, but Republican Senators remained opposed to the bill.

The Senate Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security held the hearing on the DREAM Act, which featured testimony from the Secretaries of Education and Homeland Security and Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.  Long-time DREAM Act champion Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) called the hearing to highlight the need to quickly pass the legislation that would allow children brought to the country illegally to earn U.S. citizenship.  DREAM was first introduced in 2001 and was recently re-introduced in both chambers of the 112th Congress.

Sen. Durbin began the hearing by highlighting the plight that undocumented minors in our country face on a daily basis, likening their situation to a "legal twilight zone" which they are in due "to no fault of their own."

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan expressed support for the bill, noting that it was a twofold issue of fairness and economic prosperity.  Duncan reiterated the administration’s belief that we must "educate ourselves to a better economy" and cited a recent UCLA study which estimated that DREAM eligible students would contribute $1.4 trillion in income over four decades.  He also refuted the criticism that DREAM provides amnesty by highlighting the strict standards required for undocumented minors to be DREAM eligible.

The DREAM Act would only provide a legal path to citizenship for those who:

  • Came to the United States when they were 15 or younger and have had a continuous presence in the states for at least five years
  • Have good moral character 
  • Graduated from high school or obtained a GED
  • Completed two years of college or military service in good standing.

Despite these requirements Senate Republicans generally remained opposed to the bill. Republicans on the Committee acknowledged the difficult situation that undocumented minors are in, but expressed opposition on the point that DREAM alone does not solve problems with the current immigration system and believe it should not be considered in the absence of full immigration reform. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said he was concerned that passing the DREAM Act would promote more illegal immigration and questioned if the U.S. government had the administrative ability to enforce DREAM Act requirements to prevent ineligible people from exploiting the DREAM Act to become legal U.S. citizens.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano testified in support of the bill from a law enforcement perspective, arguing that the passage of DREAM would allow for a greater focus to be placed on the undocumented who "pose great threats." Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley testified that that military would benefit greatly from motivated young adults who, even though are not legal, would be honored to have the "opportunity to serve the nation in which they grew up."

The bill failed to pass  in the 111th Congress, and while many consider its passage unlikely with the 112th Congress, Senator Durbin continues to move forward in the legislative process.

In response to a request by Durbin, NASFAA submitted a statement of support for the DREAM Act that was submitted into the Congressional Record as a part of the hearing. 

"Congress must pass the DREAM Act for deserving students who have already been in the American educational system for years and have already demonstrated their ability and worth," NASFAA President Justin Draeger states in the submitted testimony. "NASFAA urges Congress to look to the future as well as to our past, and welcome DREAM Act-eligible immigrants to full legal status."

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