Is the DREAM Act Just a Dream?

by Raymond G. Lahoud, Esquire

What a surprise—the DREAM Act vote in the US Senate was postponed another week.  Hopes of millions of undocumented Americans have faded after yesterday’s United States’ House of Representatives passage of the Act.

Unsurprisingly, the House passed its version of the DREAM Act, weeks before Republicans take control following the GOP’s General Election victory.  The question is, however, is this DREAM Act going to become a reality or, is it just a dream.

First, here is a little bit of information on the DREAM Act.  The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (“The “DREAM Act“) is a piece of proposed federal legislation in the United States that was first introduced in the United States Senate on August 1, 2001 and most recently re-introduced there and the United States House of Representatives on March 26, 2009.

This bill would provide certain illegal and deportable alien students who graduate from US high schools, who are of good moral character, arrived in the U.S. illegally as minors, and have been in the country continuously and illegally for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency if they complete two years in the military or two years at a four year institution of higher learning. The students would obtain temporary residency for a six year period. Within the six year period, a qualified student must have acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or have completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in the United States, or have served in the uniformed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, have received an honorable discharge. 

Military enlistment contracts require an eight year commitment, with active duty commitments typically between four and six years, but as low as two years.  Any alien whose permanent resident status is terminated shall return to the immigration status the alien had immediately prior to receiving conditional permanent resident status under the Act.

Let me be frank.  The partisan passage of the DREAM Act by the House of Representatives was nothing more than a ploy by the Democratic Congress to make Republicans seem insensitive to millions of young men and women who are one hundred percent Americans because of the near certain Republican filibuster in the Senate.  Why would the US House of Representatives wait until right before Christmas to act on the measure?  Why would they wait until after the devastating general election loss to act?  There is not enough time for it to clear Senate approval,

Put simply, House Democrats, like House Republicans, really do not care about the young undocumented Americans that the DREAM Act would protect.  The House Democrats—knowing that the 2011 Republican controlled Congress would never pass such an act, passed it in a last minute attempt to make the Republican party look shameful, when the Act fails to pass in the Senate, because it lacks critical Republican support—or, the vote is so late in the year, that the vote on the Senate floor may not even happen before the close of Congress.  Last night’s passage was nothing more than politics.

In other words, one can entertain the possibility that the Republican party stands against the DREAM Act.  But, is it far from reality to argue that the Democratic Party does not care either, does not want the Act to pass because of a potential loss of votes in its moderate base and is just using the Act as a means to an end—to make Republicans look insensitive—something Democrats can run with in the years to come in states where the Hispanic vote is strong?

Yes, Republicans may be against it.  But, Democratic support is questionable.  Is it support?  Is it politics?  Is the DREAM Act just a dream?

It is so crazy because every day, I meet with children and their family members–whether it be from my immigration and deportation law office in Easton, Bethlehem, or Allentown, Pennsylvania or in New Jersey or New York.  These children and families tell me their plight–the hell they went through to enter the United States.  And, they these young children tell me about what they are doing with their lives. 

They talk about their dreams as they become adults.  Some want to be lawyers–others doctors.  And, I think to myself whether there is any hope for keeping these children here or, will their dreams remain dreams forever?