The Strange World of Politics and the Killing of the “Dream Act”
Published: September 22, 2010

For about the past 10 years a legislative proposal known as the DREAM Act – standing for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors – has been under consideration at various times by lawmakers in Washington. Essentially, the bill would allow for a path to legal immigration status for certain undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as young children, and who have completed a high school education or equivalent and fulfill, prospectively, other conditions such as 2 years of college or 2 + years of honorable service in the military. Just yesterday, a proposal to move forward with the legislative process to consider the DREAM Act was shot down, with the U.S. Senate rejecting further discussion of a larger Defense Authorization bill of which the DREAM Act was just one component (as was a proposal to reverse the current “don’t ask – don’t tell” policy toward gays serving in the military).

If one were seeking a barometer for the political climate in Washington and the congressional appetite for passing any type of immigration reform, one need only look to the events leading to the killing of the DREAM Act. Give it whatever label you want: amnesty, path to citizenship, legalization – the DREAM Act would open the door to legal status, and eventually US citizenship, to an estimated 1-2 million undocumented young adults who were essentially raised as “Americans”, consider themselves “Americans” and have never really known any country other than the U.S. For many of the same reasons cited by forces against any type of path to legalization legislation, further consideration for the DREAM Act was rejected by the U.S. Senate by a margin of 56 to 43 – with Republicans – this time, and a handful of Democrats lining up to fight the bill. In general, those opposed to the DREAM Act, or any other legislation providing a path to legal status for those present in the U.S. in violation of our immigration laws, see such legislative proposals as a reward for unlawful behavior, and unfair to foreign nationals who come to the U.S. and comply with our immigration laws, or “wait in line” outside the U.S. for their turn to get a green card.

While proponents of the DREAM Act, or comprehensive immigration reform in general, do not deny that unlawful activity took place to facilitate the foreign national’s undocumented status, they do indeed push the only realistic policy of addressing the problem of having an undocumented population of 10-15 million living in our shadows. That is, unless forced to leave, these millions of foreign nationals, particularly those who lived their entire lives in the U.S., are not going anywhere. Further, that “line” the opponents of these reforms refer to is indeed a fiction for the overwhelming majority of the undocumented, since a line only exists for those who have the requisite family relationship, or in some cases, employer-employee relationship for employment based filings.

They Voted For It Before They Voted Against It: In previous incarnations, the DREAM Act was actually championed by Republicans in the Senate. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah was the first to introduce the DREAM Act all those years ago, and he is joined by other former DREAM Act Republican supporters, like Senators Bob Bennet and Lindsey Graham, to defeat what is now a Democratic legislative proposal. Apparently, the DREAM Act no longer suits their political interests, with Democrat introduced legislation like the DREAM Act – and practically any other pretext they can find – becoming rallying cries for anti-Democrat politicians looking to make a name for themselves and/or kick Democrat incumbents from office come November.

Champions of the DREAM Act in Congress have signaled their intention to reintroduce the legislation after the November elections. I wonder whether we will see a change in the climate by that time.

Copyright © 2010, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois