Last night, Democratic Senator and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced a new version of the DREAM Act (S.3992), with the goal of attracting broader support for the bill and obtaining the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate.
Senator Reid hopes to file a Motion to Close the DREAM Act this Thursday. If the motion is successful, then debate on the bill would begin, with a possible vote next Monday.
The new version of the DREAM Act addresses many of the concerns raised by Republicans and tightens eligibility restrictions in several respects. Among other changes, the new version does the following:
* It would lower the eligibility age from 35 to 30. In other words, only people who are 30 years old or younger when the law goes into effect would be able to apply for the benefit.
* Exclude from the benefit persons with certain criminal records, who have committed crimes with sentences greater than 1 year (known as a felony) or three misdemeanors.
* Requires all applicants to provide their biometric data to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), undergo background checks and a medical examination. They must also register for selective military service.
* Requires applicants to pay all federal taxes owed by them including penalties and interest.
* Establishes as a requirement to apply for immigration adjustment, to comply with the English language and civic education requirements, which are usually necessary for naturalization.
* Creates conditional nonimmigrant status for 10 years. During these 10 years, eligible individuals may apply for permanent residency. Upon achieving permanent residency, these individuals will have to wait 3 years before applying for naturalization.
* It does not allow these people to have access to federal scholarships to continue their studies.
* It does not allow these individuals to access certain federal health benefits including subsidies to pay health insurance premiums.
While I want the DREAM Act, as well as comprehensive immigration reform, to pass in Congress, I see it as difficult. But there is no worse fight than the one that is not fought.
That is why the pressure on members of Congress must continue. It is important to take action by writing and calling your member of Congress and urging them to support a version of the DREAM Act that is fair and humane. Having read the text of S.3992, I believe that the new legislation should not lower the age of eligibility and should provide federal scholarships for students. I think the latter is fair, especially when these people will have to pay all their taxes and some of them will put their lives at risk by serving in the military.
A directory of the members of Congress can be found at here. You can also call 1-888-254-5087 or 202-224-3121. Ask to speak to your state Senator and Congressman and leave a message at their offices.