Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'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:

Late last year, the bill was retooled to tighten several provisions, including a lowered age cutoff for applicants.

Durbin will be the lead sponsor of the bill, as he has been for previous versions. He was joined in the press conference by Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who touted potential economic and national security benefits. Reid and others stressed the military aspect of the bill, which has been embraced by Department of Defense leaders as a recruiting tool. Even among some supporters, it remains a controversial provision.

A national student movement surged last year before the last Dream Act vote. It has continued to grow as undocumented students and graduates have taken to "coming out" with their immigration status as a political act, something that began as a strategy for putting names and faces to those who would be affected.

This morning's press conference was broadcast online via live video feed. The reaction on Twitter from young proponents who watched it was upbeat, but tempered with skepticism.

One person tweeted:

reporter asked about how #dreamactivists are feeling...after 10 years of fighting for #dreamact its hard to have #hope

Another replied:
It's been around for 10 years for a reason. Hope is the last thing we should lose. Justice will be done. #DREAMAct