US & World

Dream Act gets packed Senate hearing, 10 years after it was last scheduled

Packed house at the Senate hearing on the Dream Act
Packed house at the Senate hearing on the Dream Act
Kitty Felde/KPCC

Listen to story

Download this story 0.0MB

The U.S. Senate had a hearing on the Dream Act scheduled for September 12, 2001. It took 10 years for a Senate judiciary subcommittee to reschedule that hearing for this morning.

The Dream Act would offer a path to citizenship for undocumented high school graduates who attend college or serve in the military.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told senators that Congress hasn’t given her enough money to deport all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country.

That’s why, she said, she makes criminal aliens her top priority. "It simply doesn’t make sense from a law enforcement perspective to expend limited law enforcement resources on young people who pose no threat to public safety, have grown up here and want to contribute to our country by serving in the military or going to college."

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas accused Democrats of using the Dream Act as a political football to score points for next year's election. "This bill, sadly, does nothing to fix our broken immigration system. It is a Band-Aid. And maybe worse, it will provide an incentive for future illegal immigration.

"This bill does nothing for border security, workplace enforcement, visa overstays that account for about 40 percent of illegal immigration in this country. In other words, it does nothing to reduce the likelihood of further illegal immigration," said Cornyn.

The ranking member of the Immigration, Refugees and Border Security Subcommittee told Democrats that if they really want to pass the bill, they must be open to GOP amendments. The measure came five votes shy of overcoming a Senate filibuster last December.

Senators asked people in the audience who would qualify for the Dream Act to stand up. Half the audience in the Judiciary Committee room where Supreme Court nominees are vetted rose to their feet.