How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Digging into the new Dream Act

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

The latest version of the federal Dream Act that Senate Democrats plan to introduce is, at least for now, fairly similar to the version approved by the House last December.

As have its predecessors, the most recent Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would grant conditional legal status to qualifying young people who are in the United States illegally but were brought here as minors under 16, provided they attend college or join the military.

The eligibility requirements for applicants, if the bill were to become law, remain much the same, However, there are a few key differences:

  • The age cap for applicants, which was reduced to age 29 last year, has been bumped back up to 35 years of age or younger

  • The length of conditional legal status before applicants may obtain permanent legal resident status has been reduced to six years, as in an earlier version, from 10 years

  • This version would, as did an earlier version (but not the House-approved one), seek to repeal a ban on in-state tuition rates for beneficiaries


'Future doctors, soldiers, journalists:' The federal Dream Act returns

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A homemade poster in a makeshift call center last year for student Dream Act supporters, December 2010

The Dream Act will soon be reintroduced in the Senate, though no date has been set for when it will brought to the floor. Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois and other prominent Senate Democrats announced their plans this morning to bring back the long-lived immigration bill, which passed the House last December but failed in the Senate.

The proposed legislation, versions of which have been circulating for a decade, would grant conditional legal status to certain undocumented young people who were brought to this country as minors, so long as they attend college or enlist in the military.

“These young people were brought to the United States as children,” Durbin said. “They grew up in this country…they can be our future doctors, soldiers, journalists, and even United States senators."

It's still unclear how this version of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act will differ from previous versions. According to Durbin's office, the basic requirements for eligibility are similar to those in the bill last voted on. Applicants will need to:


Dream Act: A possible vote on Saturday

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A student's bold statement, December 8, 2010

Talking Points Memo is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will file cloture tonight on two key measures for Senate Democrats, the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military, and the Dream Act. From the update:

On the Senate floor just now, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the Senate will vote as soon as Saturday on a bill repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That puts it ahead of the START treaty, as proponents of repeal had requested.

Reid is also filing cloture on the DREAM Act. That means both bills should come up for a procedural vote on Saturday. The vote on the DREAM Act will come first, followed by the vote on DADT.

The cloture vote to break the filibuster on the DREAM Act is expected to fail. Next will come a cloture vote on DADT. If Reid has 60 votes for cloture vote on DADT, the vote on the actual bill will likely come Sunday.

"We've got to move this all along," Reid said from the floor.


Students wait as Senate Dream Act vote delayed until tomorrow, but House still votes tonight

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A homemade poster on the wall of the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, where about two dozen student activists are calling legislators and awaiting a vote on the Dream Act, December 8, 2010

The Senate won't be voting on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act now until tomorrow, according to a spokesman from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office. Meanwhile, the House continues to discuss the bill, with a vote still expected tonight.

For the college students and graduates who have been calling legislators all day from a makeshift call center in downtown Los Angeles, some since 6 a.m., waiting another day for the Senate to vote means another early morning. But those still around this afternoon at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center were unfazed, hoping the extra time might work in their favor. While the bill stands a chance of passing in the House, its prospects appear dim in the Senate, where more Republican votes are needed for cloture.

"Compromise needs to be realized," said Matias Ramos, 24, an undocumented UCLA graduate who now lives in Washington, D.C., where he works for a small Dream Act advocacy group. "That is the silver lining, that there may be a compromise."


DREAM Act: Movement in the House

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A sign at a DREAM Act rally in Los Angeles last summer

Update: A pending House vote on the DREAM Act has been put off awaiting the results of a budget report. Frank Sharry of America's Voice, which is monitoring the bill, said this afternoon that a floor vote is now expected mid-week.

Meanwhile, Senate leadership has held off on filing cloture tonight as tentatively planned. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said that House and Senate leadership are working together to set a vote agenda, and that a vote is expected next week.

While the Senate has yet to move on the DREAM Act, a proposed federal measure that would grant conditional legal status to undocumented youths who attend college or join the military, the House of Representatives could be voting on it as early as tomorrow.

Frank Sharry, executive director of the Washington, D.C. immigration advocacy group America's Voice, which is closely following the bill, confirmed that House leadership is moving toward a possible Friday vote.