12.08.10

Leahy Urges Support For DREAM Act

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010) – As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on the DREAM Act, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the lead cosponsor of the legislation, urged Senators to support the legislation, which will offer a path to lawful immigration status to undocumented individuals who were brought to the United States at a young age by their parents. 

 

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

On S.3992, The Development, Relief, And Education For Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act)

Senate Floor

December 8, 2010

Today, the Senate will vote on whether we should debate the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or the DREAM Act.  I have been a cosponsor of this important legislation since it was first introduced in 2001, and I commend Senator Durbin and Senator Lugar for their hard work in advancing this bill.  At the very least, we should have a debate about this important legislation.

Enacting the DREAM Act will serve important priorities for our country and for our military.  Under current law, when undocumented students graduate from high school, they typically have no opportunity to gain lawful immigration status, a circumstance that often prevents them from pursuing higher education or making other meaningful contributions to our Nation.  The bill recognizes the accomplishments of successful students who want to serve our Nation through military service or by obtaining degrees in higher education. 

The DREAM Act offers a path to lawful immigration status to individuals who are currently undocumented, but who were brought to the United States at a young age by their parents.  The bill is specifically drafted to assist those students who did not act on their own volition to enter the United States unlawfully.  In landmark Supreme Court cases like Plyler v. Doe, the Supreme Court held that we should not punish children for the actions of their parents.  Yet, to deny these students a path to lawful status and eventual citizenship does just that.

In December 2009, the Department of Defense cited passage of the DREAM Act as an important strategic goal for 2010-2012.  The Pentagon believes that the DREAM Act has potential to expand our all-volunteer military without decreasing the quality of recruits.  It is supported by General Colin Powell and many others. 

Despite numerous good faith gestures from Democrats in the Senate to work with Republicans on immigration issues, we have been met with silence at best, and obstructionism at worst.  Nonetheless, the version of the DREAM Act that we consider today has been modified to address concerns raised by those who have falsely labeled the DREAM Act as a form of amnesty.  The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that the current version of the DREAM Act will reduce deficits by approximately $1.4 billion over the years from 2011-2020.  While the cost saving is welcome news, I regret that the students and soldiers who benefit from the DREAM Act will now have to wait for 10 years to become eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence.  I believe that American values call for more generous treatment of individuals who serve our Nation, especially those who are willing to fight on behalf of our Nation overseas. 

I wish that we could have achieved bipartisan support in the 111th Congress to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill.  Even without that bipartisan commitment, we should do all we can.  The AgJOBS bill, the Uniting American Families Act, the Refugee Protection Act, and the improvement of our immigrant investor program are all reforms that will make our immigration system stronger and more effective.  I will continue to work with Senate leadership and Senators from both sides of the aisle to accomplish our shared goals for the broader reform of our Nation’s immigration system.  

The DREAM Act is a critical step to reforming our immigration system and enables a well-deserving group of young people to better serve our country.  I am glad to pledge my full support, and I hope Senators on both sides of the aisle will do the same.

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