Dream Deferred

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The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) is a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to (essentially) become citizens if they complete two years of college or military service.

This bill does not represent a major change in the philosophy behind American immigration. It merely provides a straightforward path to help educated people become U.S. citizens. College students later earn money, they pay taxes. College graduates’ employment rates are high. Their crime rates are low. These college students, in some sense, are precisely the sort of people who make the most productive, and least troublesome, immigrants.

But the DREAM Act is probably going to fail. According to a piece by Suzy Khimm at Mother Jones:

Despite [Senator Harry] Reid’s pledge to put the bill on the lame-duck calendar, the Democrats don’t have the votes yet. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) supported the GOP filibuster of the legislation when it came up in September, and fence-sitters including Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) face tough 2012 re-election races in increasingly conservative states. This means Democrats will have to scrounge up even more GOP votes as a result, and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ill.), a co-sponsor of the bill, so far stands alone in backing the bill on the Republican side. Exiting Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Uta.) may be persuadable, having previously promised to support the legislation on his way out, but the Democrats may need anywhere from five to seven Republican votes in total—a decidedly uphill battle.

At least for now the undocumented college students are mostly out of luck. This is unfortunate and a sad testimony to the current political climate (Michelle Malkin calls DREAM an “illegal alien student bailout.” One tea party group in California, without citing any actual costs, complains that the legislation would result in “a spending nightmare that we cannot afford.”) but, as Khimm reports, the potential of the DREAM act has encouraged many students and universities to openly discuss the plight of undocumented students.

Some UCLA students are now wearing “I’m undocumented” t-shirts publicly on campus.

Pedro Ramirez, the student body president at Fresno State, revealed in the Los Angeles Times that he was undocumented immigrant. Jose Salcedo, who occupies the same position at Miami Dade College, announced at a student rally that he too was undocumented. An anonymous Harvard senior wrote last week in the Daily Beast about her plight as a long-time undocumented student.

Well acknowledging the problem is a start…. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer