Updates on the DREAM Act

The proposed legislation known as the DREAM Act would give undocumented children some form of amnesty, but the passage of the law has been challenged by opponents who feel the law has the potential to legalize many undocumented US residents.

The DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act is a piece of proposed legislation which would give undocumented youth a path to permanent residency, legal status, and even citizenship if they attended school or joined the US military. The DREAM Act was created as a type of amnesty legislation which would have helped provide legal status to some of the country’s many undocumented residents.

What the Act Was Designed to Do

Currently, it is unknown how many illegal immigrants live in the US, although some estimate the figure to be 10 million. In many cases, children are caught in the middle, when their parents choose to immigrate illegally into the US. The children are often brought along, where they face a long life as an undocumented resident. Lack of documentation can affect a child’s entire life, as it can make them ineligible for jobs, education, and training. The DREAM Act was designed to give these children a second chance, and by so doing, give families a second chance, as children who may have become citizens or permanent residents under the DREAM Act could then have turned around and become sponsors for family members, potentially making entire families legal residents of the US.

Challenges to the DREAM Act

However, the DREAM Act has had a difficult time passing into law. Despite much public support and even support by prominent leaders, the DREAM Act has failed to pass into law. On 18 December 2010, for example, the Senate did not vote in favor of the DREAM Act, ensuring that the act would not become law during the 2010 session of Congress. To pass, the DREAM Act needed 60 votes, but 41 senators voted against the DREAM Act.

Opponents to the DREAM Act note that the proposed legislation would extend citizenship rights to many, providing a type of blanket amnesty. For example, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison opposes granting a path to citizenship to undocumented youth because “Once they become U.S. citizens, these individuals would by law be able to petition for family members to also gain citizenship. This would therefore expand citizenship beyond the intended students.”

Support for the DREAM Act

Supporters of the DREAM Act note that children to undocumented immigrants should not be permanently held accountable for the actions of their parents. Supporters also note that the legislation requires applicants to do some good – to attend college or join the armed forces – which would benefit the US as a whole. Following the December 2010 defeat in congress, DREAM Act supporters held candlelight vigils and pledged to continue to support the legislation. They also expressed frustration with the senators who voted against the DREAM Act and noted that those senators might face backlash from voters in the future.