Posted by: JanF | December 24, 2010

We can still DREAM

Curse you, United States Senate!

I was all ready with my theme today:

The Senate … where DREAMs go to die. The Senate killed the DREAM Act and with it the dreams of young people who came to America as small children “illegally”.

Ha. Wasn’t that clever? Wouldn’t I have won a Pulitzer Prize for that?

But then the United States Senate did something completely unexpected. They passed some important last minute legislation and then, ::shock::, laid out a plan for modifying Senate rules for the 112th Congress … that all 53 returning Democratic Senators are supporting!

As Gail Collins (someone who really does deserve a Pulitzer) said yesterday: “Good work, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Unlike your hapless predecessor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, you’ve had legislation shooting off to the White House like angry birds in that video game. Unemployment compensation! Gay rights! Food safety! Judicial appointments! Arms control! Health care for 9/11 responders!”

So instead of where DREAMs go to die, maybe now it was where DREAMs go to get a some attention … enough to continue DREAMing?

The DREAM Act (The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) is the legislation passed by the House of Representatives which would “provide certain illegal and deportable alien students who graduate from US high schools, who are of good moral character, arrived in the U.S. illegally as minors, and have been in the country continuously and illegally for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency if they complete two years in the military or two years at a four year institution of higher learning.”

Essentially it would stop punishing young people who came to America as small children when their parents illegally crossed the border. And give those innocent children a chance to become American citizens.

All that attention on the DREAM Act in the flurry of quacktivity in the lame duck session, has resulted in a new push to get a grass roots movement together to enact it next year:

The White House is preparing a major grassroots push to pass the DREAM Act next year, which President Obama said Wednesday was one of his top priorities after the legislation failed in the recent lame duck session.

On a conference call with journalists Wednesday, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said the President is willing to “wage a very public campaign” to push the DREAM Act, which would grant undocumented students who were brought into the United States as minors by their parents a path to citizenship through higher education or military service. He added that grassroots activism will be essential to success.

“The President always said on the campaign trail that change comes from the bottom up, and on issues like the DREAM Act, it has to, because there’s some real resistance in Washington — primarily in the other party, but some in our own — and I think we’re going to need to get people activated, and I think you’ll see a lot of that over the next months and years,” said Pfeiffer in response to a question from The Huffington Post.

During a news conference Wednesday, Obama said he will be reaching out to Republicans who may believe “in their heart of hearts” that passing the DREAM Act is the right thing to do but think the politics are tough.

And President Obama may very well be correct. You do not have to go too far back in the way-back machine to find a bipartisan flavor to the push for the DREAM Act:

Back in 2003, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) sponsored S.1545 — the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Back then, the bill attracted co-sponsors like Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John McCain (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sam Brownback (R-KS). All of those Republican senators voted against a more conservative version of the same bill this past Saturday. Hatch simply didn’t bother to show up.

That failure to get cloture (it failed when 5 Democrats joined a Republican filibuster — minus 3 reasonable Republicans) got a lot of positive attention for those who voted for it and a lot of negative attention for those who voted against it.

The bill will have to start all over again in the 112th Congress and a grassroots effort will be needed to keep this dream alive.

It should be a no-brainer.

The current tea party Republicans and Blue Dogs are focused on “offsets”. The CBO has estimated that this piece of legislation would generate an estimated $1.4 billion in tax revenues.

The only thing we give these kids is citizenship. And giving that costs us nothing. In fact, when we give someone citizenship we immediately enhance our country because we have included another person in the American experience. Not just any person but one who may very well carry the American dream more deeply than someone else. Their parents came to this country in search of a better life for themselves and their children. And that is exactly the attitude we should encourage.

The way I see it, citizenship is one of those things that is more valuable to us when we give it away. Let’s join this new grassroots movement and work to give it to these kids.

(A version of this was originally posted on 12/24/2010 at BPI Campus)


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