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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Why is the DREAM Act still only a dream?

This week (Saturday 7/16 - Tuesday 7/19) the National Council of La Raza is holding its annual conference in Philadelphia. As described in this editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the major topics of the convention will be immigration status. As someone who generally leans toward controlling immigration, I would not necessarily expect to find common cause with La Raza on immigration issues. But I found that I can get wholeheartedly behind at least one of their legislative priorities: the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. As summed up in this Inquirer blurb:
The Dream Act would give conditional legal status for six years to students who:

• Came to the United States before age 16.
• Have lived in the United States for at least five years.
• Have good moral character.
• Have graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED in the United States.

To become a green-card holder, at the end of those six years, the immigrant must complete two years of university or community college, or serve two years in the U.S. military.

This Inquirer article, Immigrants hit an education wall, describes the situation without the DREAM Act, and how the DREAM Act would give these kids the opportunity to realize the American Dream. After reading about the plight of these kids, I was convinced that this is an immigration door we should open - it makes sense, since post-secondary education or military service is made a requirement. To square with my views on controlling immigration, all that is needed, theoretically, would be to reduce another quota to make room for the estimated numbers of kids coming in through the DREAM door. Except of course, our quotas make zero sense now anyway, and also there may not be any significant impact of legitimizing these kids staying in the U.S., since many are probably staying illegally anyway. The DREAM Act just creates an opportunity for legitimization that requires a little effort on the part of the applicant. And if a group like La Raza likes it, I'm assuming it must be okay from the immigrant' viewpoint.

So, perfect, right? We have a proposal that both (sane) sides of the discussion agree on, that is humane and results in added opportunities for an immigrant to attain legal status.

Well, here's what can be so depressing about following politics. Here's what La Raza's policy summary says about where the DREAM Act sits in Congress:
Both the "DREAM Act" and the House companion bill are awaiting reintroduction in the 109th Congress. At the close of the 108th Congress, both the "DREAM Act" and the House bill had garnered significant support from both Democrats and Republicans. The "DREAM Act" was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 16-3 bipartisan vote and had 48 Senate cosponsors. The House bill had the support of 153 representatives in the U.S. House.

I looked at the Thomas website and found that, in the 108th Congress (last year), the Senate bill, S.1545, was reported out of committee on 2/9/2004. Meanwhile, the House bill, H.R.1684, was referred to subcommittee on 5/5/2003 - never to be heard from again for the rest of the 108th Congress - 19 months. With 152 bi-partisan cosponsors on the House bill, and 48 on the Senate bill.

How in the world does a bill with such broad bi-partisan support just die in Congress like that? No wonder the American public doesn't want to be bothered with politics. Seeing something like this, one really wonders what's the point.

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