[UPDATED] House begins debate on Dream Act

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Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Dream Act supporters hold signs and votive candles during a rally and vigil on Dec. 7, 2010 outside La Placita Church in downtown LA near Olvera Street.

The House is expected to vote Wednesday evening on the Dream Act. It’s currently debating the merits of the measure that would grant legal residency to undocumented college students and members of the armed forces.

US Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who heads the House Immigration subcommittee, spoke on the House floor. She described the beneficiaries of the Dream Act as kids who grew up in the United States, and who often speak no other language but English, yet face dead ends once they graduate from high school.

"Their immigration status prevented them from working, paying taxes, serving in the military," she said. "They could never get right with the law, even though they had done nothing wrong. The only thing they was to obey their parents."

Republican House members describe the Dream Act as a “nightmare” that invites fraud. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is the ranking member of the House immigration subcommittee. He urged colleagues to reject what he called the “affirmative action amnesty act” that would grant a "de facto scholarship" to illegal immigrants who attend college.

"Next to them in a desk will be a husband or a wife who is aggrieved having lost their spouse fighting for our liberty in Iraq or Afghanistan, paying out of state tuition — in California, $22,021 a year, paying out of state tuition — for defending our rule of law, while someone who is being rewarded for breaking it is getting free tuition," he said.

Earlier in the day, the House had a procedural vote about whether to bring the Dream Act to the floor for debate and a vote. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) argued that it was the wrong measure and the wrong time.

"We need to secure our borders," she said, "and once we secure the borders, then we can deal with all the other issues related to those who are here illegally."

But Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said it makes no sense to punish children whose parents illegally brought them into this country.

"If you’re pulled over for a speeding ticket and you have a child in a car seat next to you," he said, "that 2-year-old doesn’t get a speeding ticket. If there’s a bank robber who robs it with a toddler on their back, that toddler doesn’t spend a life in prison."

The Senate will likely take up the measure tomorrow.

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