Local advocates keep hope alive for Dream Act
By Jessica Barrow
Sunday, 12.26.2010, 09:31pm
Millions of young illegal immigrants had their hopes dashed on Saturday, December 18th, when the Senate failed to give the 60 votes needed to pass legislation for the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, was a bi-partisan legislation that would have allowed some illegal and deportable youth the opportunity to obtain permanent residency if they met certain requirements.
That bill’s failure to pass stunned many government officials and community leaders. Not only was the DREAM Act an important part of immigration reform, but it was shown to provide a boost for the economy and increase tax revenues. According to a statement made by President Obama, the act could have helped reduce the federal deficit by $2.2 billion in 10 years, while helping to increase the number in the armed forces.
“Those who opposed it, I don’t believe they had any justification,” said Imad Hamad, Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Michigan Chapter (ADC-MI). “They aren’t serving the best interest of the nation. They challenge something that helps so many families to become stable and helps kids to obtain a good education and become productive members of society.”
With the DREAM Act having so many benefits, its failure to pass generated many theories.
Dawud Walid, Director of the Council of American Islamic Relations, believe the bill itself was not the issue.
“We believe that it was politics that drove (not passing the act), not the essence of the act itself, with the political climate being so partisan. The anti immigrant sentiments are what we just saw in terms of the vote.”
The DREAM Act, which was proposed nearly 10 year ago, had both Republican and Democratic supporters, due to its targeting of illegal immigrants who came into the country before the age of 16, have a high school diploma, are attending college or joining the military. Such youth would be considered “good citizens” and earn their permanent residence in this country.
“There were some on the right who said the act was an amnesty act, and that is simply not true,” Walid said. “In essence, the DREAM Act was giving a chance to people who came here not by choice, or their own volition but by their parents, who have shown to be law abiding and productive citizens, the ability become documented and be legal residents. The provisions were very stringent in terms of indicating those who committed felonies or other crimes. There were no provisions of amnesty for criminals.”
“The Dream Act is one of those good efforts that was hopeful to fix some of the broken immigration system which poses a tremendous challenge to our nation,” said Hamad. “For the past three or four administrations, this has been on the table, the need for immigration reform. The DREAM Act was a partial effort and a step in the right direction. It addressed an issue that is of great concern to immigrants: the status of young children who came to this country.”
The act was supported by many of those young children who now attend college, as well as institutions of higher-learning, and legislators. For those who supported the act, this lack of passage in the Senate is not the end.
“Our movement felt the sting of a temporary legislative setback, but we have not been defeated,” said Ali Noor, Director of the National Immigration Forum and Chair of the Reform Immigration for America Campaign, in a press release.”We may not have won this battle, but when it comes to winning the war between mass deportation and earned citizenship, it’s not a matter of if we win, but when.”
Local community leaders also believe that this was just a small setback.
“People who advocated will not give up,” said Hamad. “It’s valid and legitimate. It is a matter that will be faced today, tomorrow and the day after. It’s not going to end here. Tomorrow (the DREAM Act) will be called another name, but will be the same concept. It’s a call for reform.”