WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) joined Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and 30 other Senators in introducing the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act – a narrowly tailored bill to give undocumented students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing. Estimates indicate 50,000 to 65,000 students would benefit from the DREAM Act each year.
“Current law unfairly punishes thousands of young people who grew up here and know only America as their home, holding them back from making a contribution to our country’s military and economy,” said Senator Gillibrand, an original co-sponsor of the DREAM Act. “These young people deserve better. They deserve a chance at the American dream – to work hard, get a good education, serve in the military, earn their way to legal status, help grow our economy and keep our country safe. It’s time for Congress to put politics and ideology aside and strengthen our nation’s future and national security by passing the DREAM Act.”
“Our immigration laws prevent thousands of young people from fully contributing to our nation’s future. These young people have lived in this country for most of their lives. It is the only home they know. They are American in every sense except their technical legal status,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader and author of the DREAM Act, Dick Durbin. “They are honor roll students, star athletes, talented artists and valedictorians. These children are tomorrow’s doctors, nurses, teachers, policemen, firefighters, soldiers, and senators, and we should give them the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
“The DREAM Act will give children brought to this nation by their parents through no fault of their own – children who in many cases have known no other country – the opportunity to earn legal status. Only those who stay in school and out of trouble, and who go on to college or to defend our country in the armed forces would be eligible. Allowing these students to become productive citizens is not only good for them – it makes economic sense, would reduce our deficit by $2.2 billion in a decade and would strengthen our military and national security,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
“We should not punish children for their parents’ past decisions. The students who would be helped by the DREAM Act did not make the decision to enter this country in an undocumented fashion. They’ve followed the rules, worked hard in school and now they want to serve this country in the military or get a higher education. Equally important, they love the United States, the only home many of them have known, and should be permitted to continue here in pursuit of the American Dream,” Senator Robert Menendez said.
Due to their undocumented status, tens of thousands of immigrant students with good grades are shut out of the American dream. These students have no choice in the matter because they were brought to the United States by their parents at a young age and have spent most of their lives in America. Yesterday, in a speech on the need for immigration reform, President Obama said, “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.”
In order to be eligible for the DREAM Act, individuals must have:
- Come to the U.S. as children (15 or under)
- Be long-term U.S. residents (continuous physical presence for at least five years)
- Have good moral character
- Graduate from high school or obtain a GED
- Complete two years of college or military service in good standing
The DREAM Act would benefit the U.S. Armed Forces. Tens of thousands of highly-qualified, well-educated young people would enlist in the Armed Forces if the DREAM Act becomes law. 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 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, saying, “Immigration is what’s keeping this country’s lifeblood moving forward.”
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. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports the DREAM Act, says, “They are just the kind of immigrants we need to help solve our unemployment problem. It is senseless for us to chase out the home-grown talent that has the potential to contribute so significantly to our society.”
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 by a preponderance of the evidence. 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% of likely voters favor the DREAM Act, including 60% of Republicans.
The DREAM Act is supported by labor, business, education, civil rights and religious groups, including 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.
The following Senators are also cosponsors of the DREAM Act: Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Carl Levin (D-MI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
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).