How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Joy and tears as Dream Act clears House

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Students in Los Angeles react to news of the Dream Act victory in the House, December 8, 2010

Jubilant students in downtown Los Angeles reacted with joyful shouts and tears as they watched a C-SPAN broadcast with the results of the Dream Act vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, which just approved the measure.

A Senate vote is expected tomorrow. If the bill clears both chambers of Congress, the legislation will provide conditional legal status for undocumented youths who arrived here before age 16, provided they attend college or enlist in the military and that they meet strict criteria.

Dozens of students, many of them undocumented, manned the phones all day at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center next to McArthur Park, calling legislators for their support. Tonight, as the vote count was reported, excited students cheered, cried and hugged one another.

It's a tentative victory for them, and they are cautiously optimistic. So far, there has not been sufficient Republican support in the Senate for the bill to pass. The students will return to the center tomorrow at 7 a.m. to await the Senate vote, expected to take place in the morning.

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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."

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As seen on a t-shirt

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A student's bold statement, December 8, 2010

Worn by a student in Los Angeles while awaiting a vote on the Dream Act, as the Senate takes up the measure this afternoon.

About two dozen college students and graduates have spent the morning making calls to legislators from a makeshift phone bank at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, across from McArthur Park.

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Waiting for a Dream Act vote

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Students at a makeshift call center downtown watch C-SPAN as they make final calls to legislators urging support for the Dream Act, December 8, 2010

Students are gathered at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center this morning to make last-minute calls to legislators and await a vote on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would grant conditional legal status to qualifying undocumented youths who attend college or join the military.

House and Senate votes are expected today; a Senate vote, which had been expected this morning, has been moved up to mid-afternoon Eastern time.

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DREAM Act dollars: A roundup of reports

Robert Huffstutter/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Different estimates have been floated around in recent weeks as to what the DREAM Act represents in dollars and cents: How much money it may cost, and how much money it may generate.

Late last week, the Congressional Budget Office scored the most recent version of the bill, which would allow qualifying undocumented youths who arrived here under age 16 to obtain conditional legal status - and eventually permanent legal status - if they attend college or enlist in the military.

The CBO report concluded that over the next 10 years, as the DREAM Act increases the number of authorized workers in the country, revenues would increase by $2.3 billion and the national deficit would decrease by $1.4 billion. However, as conditional legal status gives way to permanent legal status for beneficiaries, they would qualify like other legal residents and U.S. citizens for government programs, including federal health insurance exchanges, adding to the deficit in the long run.

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