Will the DREAM Stand Alone?

Protests by undocumented students demand permanent residency. The protesters are children whose parents brought them into the U.S. illegally.

And just what does that ruckus mean? Students that are taking a huge risk that they might be deported are standing up to be counted over their status. The act they are advocating be passed is referred to as the DREAM Act, which refers to Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors. Very simply, they want it passed since it would provide conditional permanent residency to high school grads that have lived in the U.S. for at least five years.

Those who qualified for conditional permanent residency would be able to work, go to school and/or serve in the military for anywhere up to six years. If they complete a two year bachelor’s degree or serve at least two years in the military, they would be granted lawful permanent residency. Why hasn’t this Act been passed since it’s been hanging around in various versions since 2001?

When it was first introduced, it was a political winner, or at least had the potential to be a winner and could actually stand alone, independent of the comprehensive immigration reform bill. But then, along came the Arizona immigration law fracas and the Utah list. Twice burnt politically is twice shy about pushing anything ahead dealing with immigration or immigration reform particularly if the present government wishes to be elected again. In the final analysis, the Republicans in the Senate are gun shy about voting for an Act that could look like it was offering amnesty.

The last time anything substantive was done with the DREAM Act was back in 2007, the vote then was 38 Democrats and 12 Republicans – not enough to do anything. In fact, it was widely talked about that Democrats withheld their votes because they thought the Act would affect the comprehensive immigration reform process. Frankly, at this point, just about everything, whether it’s related or not, affects comprehensive immigration reform efforts.

What’s going on? It appears those on the Hill are fighting over ideological differences: one side wanting to move forward and the other side wanting to stand still. The side that wants to stand still and not muddy the waters is the side that seems to be stalling on anything that is an Obama priority – comprehensive immigration reform is an Obama priority. It appears that the cohesiveness of the Republican Party is being fought over immigration issues. No wonder not much is happening on the Hill.
Will the DREAM Act stand on its own, away from comprehensive immigration reform? There is a chance that it may, but there needs to be the political will to do so.

Sally Odell — Rifkin & Fox-Isicoff, PA is an immigration lawyer in Miami with immigration law offices in Orlando and Miami Florida. To learn more, visit http://www.rifkinandfoxisicoff.com.