As the national debate over immigration reform rolls on, a bipartisan group of House members are gearing up to introduce a DREAM Act bill near the end of February to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented youth.
House representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) plan to introduce a similar version of the 2010 DREAM Act bill, which failed to pass in the Senate after passing in the House that year.
The bill would pave a path to citizenship for undocumented youth who meet certain requirements, such as enter the U.S. as children, have a clean criminal record, graduate from a U.S. high school and either completed two years of college or military service.
Several dreamers told VOXXI they’ve heard talks about Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also gearing up to introduce a DREAM Act bill in the Senate this month. When asked to confirm, Durbin spokesperson Maria McElwain told VOXXI in an email that the senator “is currently negotiating comprehensive immigration reform legislation that includes the DREAM Act with Senators McCain, Graham, Rubio, Schumer and Menendez.”
Could DREAM Act be a distraction for immigration reform?
Some dreamers fear that the introduction of the DREAM Act bill now could be a distraction for a broad immigration reform. But the three House members, who are avid supporters of immigration reform, indicate that won’t be the case.
Douglas Rivlin, director of communication for Rep. Gutierrez’s office, told VOXXI in an email that the introduction of the DREAM Act bill doesn’t mean Gutierrez is backing down from his commitment to push for an immigration reform. He also said the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform “are not in competition with each other because it is a ‘both-and’ not an ‘either-or’ situation.”
“The DREAM Act is a component of comprehensive immigration reform that the Congressman has supported since he first introduced a precursor to the DREAM Act back in 2001 and he played a big role in getting the DREAM Act passed by the House in 2010,” Rivlin added. “So when it is introduced again this year with bipartisan support, he will be a lead sponsor.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Roybal-Allard told VOXXI in an email that she believes the introduction of the DREAM Act “shines a powerful light on the specific hardships undocumented young people face under our broken immigration system.”
She added that the bill will also “help build the momentum for comprehensive immigration reform.”
“By highlighting the stories of thousands of promising young people, the DREAM Act lends a human face to the case for immigration reform and reminds people that CIR is about more than economics and enforcement—it’s about our children, our families and our future,” she told VOXXI. ”I remain committed to ensuring that the provisions of the DREAM Act are included in any package of reforms passed by Congress.”
Same immigration strategy used in 2010
Erika Andiola, a dreamer from Arizona, said the introduction of immigration bills, like the DREAM Act, could be an indication that members of Congress are using the same strategy for immigration used in 2010.
She explained there was a strategy in 2010 to push for an immigration reform but have other bills, like the DREAM Act, ready in case not enough support was there to get immigration reform passed.
Now, Andiola said she suspects members of Congress could be using that same strategy this year as evident with this new DREAM Act bill and other immigration bills recently introduced. One of them is the Uniting American Families Act, which would allow gay and lesbian citizens to sponsor their partners for legal residency in the U.S.
“It’s very similar to what we saw in 2010 except now it’s going to be up to us Dreamers—now that we have more political clout—to decide what direction we want to take,” Andiola told VOXXI, adding that the common goal among most dreamers is to fight for immigration reform.