DREAM Act Coming Up for a Vote in the U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate is likely to vote tomorrow afternoon on the Development, Relief and Education For Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). The legislation aims to resolve a contradiction in current law on education and immigration. The students affected by this bill are immigrants, brought to this country at a young age by their parents, who have graduated from U.S. high schools, often after attending U.S. schools for most of their lives. Despite having established roots and earning their diplomas here, their immigration status bars them in many cases from opportunities that make a college education affordable, including in-state tuition rates, loans, and grants, most private scholarships. Thus, under current U.S. law our nation, after investing in these student’s elementary and secondary education, reverses course at the post-secondary level and in effect says this investment must be squandered.

The DREAM Act would allow students who entered the country before age 16 and who have been in the U.S. continuously for at least five years to earn legal residency if they have earned a high-school diploma or GED, pass background checks, and either attend college or serve in the U.S. military for at least two years.

Delegates to the American Federation of Teachers convention this year voted overwhelmingly in support of this legislation. Though in the past the proposal has received consistent bipartisan support in Congress, the U.S. Senate outcome is in doubt, with some senators objecting to consideration of this proposal in isolation from other immigration issues, while other senators object to its consideration as part of a national-defense authorization bill.