Both the Attorney General and Secretary of Education endorsed on Friday the passage of the DREAM Act that will pave the way for young illegal immigrants to attend college or enter the military and become U.S. citizens.
In Friday’s conference call held at the White House, Education Sec. Arne Duncan said the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2010) was “a right thing to do,” as she exhorted the Senate to pass the measure that was recently approved by the House of Representatives.
Duncan said, “In the coming days, the Senate will have the opportunity to open the door to the American Dream of college for these bright, talented youth, unleashing the full potential of young people who live out values that all Americans cherish – a strong work ethic, service to others, and a deep loyalty to our country.”
According to the White House, the DREAM Act will set up the process by which young people who grew up in the U.S. will be able to obtain legal status by either pursing a higher education or by serving in the military.
“We’re closer than we’ve ever been and we’re not giving up,” Duncan said, “We will keep doing whatever it takes to make this happen for thousands of hard-working, patriotic young people who are leaders in their communities and who are looking for an opportunity to attend college or serve our country in the military, but who canâ€™t, though no fault of their own.”
In urging the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid is not expected to garner the 60 votes needed to pass the measure, Duncan said, “Now is the time to press on with our full support for the DREAM Act. The Senate has the chance to offer them and our nation a brighter future by coming together in a bipartisan way to pass the DREAM Act.”
Passage of the DREAM Act, Duncan said will “result in a new generation of college graduates who will help strengthen our economic security and a new set of future taxpayers who will contribute much more as college graduates than they ever would as struggling workers moving from one under-the-table job to another.”
“They will help build the economy of the 21st century,” she said.
In an earlier blog, Duncan described the young illegal immigrants as part of the American mainstream. She said these students “are some of the countryâ€™s best and brightest. They were raised and educated in America. They are valedictorians, star athletes, community leaders, and are active in their faith.”
And just like any ordinary young American, Duncan said, they also “text and go to the mall. They are Americans in every sense of the word.”
Furthermore, they have “deep roots here and are loyal to the country that has been the only home they’ve known,” Duncan said. “They are our future pediatricians, teachers, and engineers – if we give them a chance. They are exactly the type of young people America should be embracing.”
The son of an immigrant, Holder said passing the DREAM Act “would bring extraordinary individuals out of the shadows, where – despite their efforts to contribute and their determination to succeed – they have been relegated for far too long.”
He said, “looking around, I can see that, today, this dream (of becoming legal in the U.S.) is fading for too many deserving young people who, through no fault of their own, lack documentation – and, therefore, are being denied opportunity.
“Why should we say no?,” Holder asked. “Why should someone who grew up in America, speaks English, holds degrees from one or more of our schools, and shows – time and again – a commitment to citizenship have to forgo a productive future? That is why the DREAM Act must be passed.”
According to Holder, the DREAM Act would do more than expand opportunities for learning and public service for young people across the country. “It would also benefit every American by helping establish a new generation of young people grounded in our nation’s finest traditions and its founding principles.”
Last week, the House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act on an almost partisan voting. The so-called DREAM Act cleared the House 216 to 198.
After repeated efforts failed to secure a comprehensive overhaul of the tattered immigration system in the United States – where some 11 million undocumented people are estimated to currently live – the bipartisan bill sought to better integrate children brought illegally to the country by their parents.
The measure narrowly applies to immigrants younger than 30 years old who arrived in the United States illegally before they were 16, spent at least five years on US soil and have not had run-ins with the law.
Candidates must also have earned a high-school degree, attend at least two years of college or serve in the military.
President Barack Obama welcomed the vote, noting the Congressional Budget Office found the bill would cut the massive U.S. deficit by $2.2 billion over the next 10 years.
Obama said the DREAM Act “corrects one of the most egregious flaws of a badly broken immigration system. A flaw that forces children who have grown up in America, who speak English, who have excelled in our communities as academics, athletes or volunteers to put their lives and talent on hold at a great cost to themselves and our nation.”
Supporters say the move could help legalize the status of hundreds of thousands of youths who have been brought to the country illegally at no fault of their own.
But Republicans criticized the bill as “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. About 40 House Democrats also voted against the measure.