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DREAM Act introduced to help immigrant students

MEDIA RELEASE

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and 30 other Senators have introduced the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act – a narrowly tailored bill to give undocumented students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing.

“Our immigration laws prevent thousands of young people from fully contributing to our nation’s future. These young people have lived in this country for most of their lives. It is the only home they know. They are American in every sense except their technical legal status,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader and author of the DREAM Act, Dick Durbin. “These children are tomorrow’s doctors, nurses, teachers, policemen, firefighters, soldiers, and senators, and we should give them the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

“The DREAM Act will give children brought to this nation by their parents through no fault of their own – children who in many cases have known no other country – the opportunity to earn legal status. Only those who stay in school and out of trouble, and who go on to college or to defend our country in the armed forces would be eligible. Allowing these students to become productive citizens is not only good for them – it makes economic sense, would reduce our deficit by $2.2 billion in a decade and would strengthen our military and national security,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

“We should not punish children for their parents’ past decisions. The students who would be helped by the DREAM Act did not make the decision to enter this country in an undocumented fashion. They’ve followed the rules, worked hard in school and now they want to serve this country in the military or get a higher education. Equally important, they love the United States, the only home many of them have known, and should be permitted to continue here in pursuit of the American Dream,” Sen. Robert Menendez said.

Due to their undocumented status, tens of thousands of immigrant students with good grades are shut out of the American dream. These students have no choice in the matter because they were brought to the United States by their parents at a young age and have spent most of their lives in America.

“As a former educator and a veteran, I believe that our youth should have the opportunity to reach their potential through college education and military service,” said Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI). “The DREAM Act will strengthen our armed forces, add to our skilled workforce, and contribute to our economy, while offering an opportunity for these young adults to pursue the promise of our nation.”

“I am concerned about the many young adults who have worked hard to contribute to this country but, through no fault of their own, find themselves without legal status,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said. “Many were brought to this country as children years ago, attended school here, and consider the United States home. I support the DREAM Act because I believe it is in the country’s best interest to give talented youth who have good moral character and are dedicated to serving the United States the opportunity to succeed.”

In order to be eligible for the DREAM Act individuals must have:

* Come to the U.S. as children (15 or under)

* Be long-term U.S. residents (continuous physical presence for at least five years)

* Have good moral character

* Graduate from high school or obtain a GED

* Complete two years of college or military service in good standing

The DREAM Act would benefit the U.S. Armed Forces. Tens of thousands of highly-qualified, well-educated young people would enlist in the Armed Forces if the DREAM Act becomes law.

The Defense Department’s FY 2010-12 Strategic Plan includes the DREAM Act as a means to help “shape and maintain a mission-ready All Volunteer Force.”

Defense Secretary Gates, who supports the DREAM Act, says it “will result in improved recruitment results and attendant gains in unit manning and military performance.”

General Colin Powell has also endorsed the DREAM Act, saying, “Immigration is what’s keeping this country’s lifeblood moving forward.

The DREAM Act would stimulate the American economy. A UCLA study concluded that DREAM Act participants could contribute $1.4-$3.6 trillion to the U.S. economy during their working lives.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports the DREAM Act, said, “They are just the kind of immigrants we need to help solve our unemployment problem. It is senseless for us to chase out the home-grown talent that has the potential to contribute so significantly to our society.”

The DREAM Act includes important restrictions to prevent abuse. DREAM Act participants are not eligible for Pell and other federal grants and are subject to tough criminal penalties for fraud.

DREAM Act applicants must apply within one year of obtaining a high school degree/GED or the bill’s enactment; and must prove eligibility by a preponderance of the evidence.

To be eligible, an individual must submit biometric information; undergo background checks and a medical exam; register for the Selective Service; demonstrate the ability to read, write, and speak English; and demonstrate knowledge of the history and government of the U.S.

An individual cannot qualify if he or she is ineligible for immigration relief on criminal or national security grounds.

The DREAM Act has broad bipartisan support in Congress and from the American people. In the 111th Congress, the DREAM Act passed the House and received a strong bipartisan majority vote from 55 Senators. According to a recent poll by Opinion Research Corporation, 70 percent of likely voters favor the DREAM Act, including 60 percent of Republicans.

The DREAM Act is supported by labor, business, education, civil rights and religious groups, including the AFL-CIO, the National PTA, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the CEOs of Fortune 100 companies like Microsoft and Pfizer, and dozens of colleges and universities.

A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).

More information on the DREAM Act can be found at www.durbin.senate.gov

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