It grabbed headlines for its failure to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military, but the Republican filibuster this week of a massive defense bill also blocks another piece of legislation embedded in it: the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or “DREAM Act.”
The DREAM Act is a piece of immigration reform to enable the children of illegal immigrants to obtain an education, and permanent residence status.
Senate Democrats failed to overcome a Republican filibuster of defense authorization bill. The legislation, which authorizes a wide variety of activities and spending for the U.S. armed forces, included a provision that would have repealed the 17-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
It also included the DREAM Act, which would give students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children (15 or under), are long-term U.S. residents (continuous physical presence for five years), have “good moral character,” and complete two years of college or military service in good standing.
These young people were brought to the United States and should not be punished for their parents’ choice to enter the country illegally, DREAM Act supporters say.
Those supporters, including Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) contend the DREAM Act would benefit the U.S. military. The Defense authorization bill was the appropriate vehicle for the DREAM Act because tens of thousands of highly-qualified, well-educated young people would enlist in the armed forces if the DREAM Act were to become law, according to a section of Durbin’s Senate website devoted to the DREAM Act.
Despite falling victim to Republican obstruction, the DREAM Act is bipartisan legislation, Durbin says. It has 40 cosponsors, and in the previous Congress, the DREAM Act received 52 votes, including 11 Republicans, according to his website. Durbin also cites an Opinion Research Corp. poll that finds 70 percent of likely voters favor the DREAM Act, including 60 percent of Republicans.
The DREAM Act includes restrictions to prevent abuse, Durbin’s website says. DREAM Act students would not be eligible for Pell grants, would be subject to “tough criminal penalties” for fraud, and would have limited ability to sponsor their family members for legal status, it adds.
The future of the defense authorization bill, including both the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and DREAM Act provisions, remains “murky” following the filibuster, however, according to the Washington Post.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.