Several Democratic senators renewed an uphill push for legislation Tuesday that would allow young undocumented immigrants temporary and ultimately permanent residency, improving the nation’s economic and security status.
Supported by 36 other senators, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) presented the initiative of the bill known as the DREAM Act, which would allow students who came to the United States as children to gain permanent residency if they go to college or serve in the military.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said “the time to approve has come…some of these young adults are the best students in their class and are also presidents of Student Associations.”
The initiative seeks to benefit immigrants that were younger than 16 years old when they came to the United States, have spent at least five years in the country, must have a high school diploma or its equivalent and been admitted to an institution of higher education or the military. Only once they pass a criminal background check and enroll in college or the armed forces will they have the chance to earn a legal status.
The possibility that Congress will pass the DREAM Act or some type of immigration reform is remote, but the hearing gives lawmakers a chance to show Hispanics and other immigrant communities their support for the legislation before next year’s elections.
Although Republican Senator John Cornyn said on Tuesday that he sympathizes with the young adults that will benefit from the act since they hold no responsibility for their parent’s actions, he did state that the act “does nothing to resolve the immigration system, border security and the number of people residing in the United States with expired visas.”
Cornyn also pointed out changes he believes need to be made before the bill can gain more Republican support. He argued, for example, that students could gain citizenship even if they committed serious misdemeanors, such as driving while intoxicated or drug offenses.
Siding with Cornyn was Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who said: “the DREAM Act prevents U.S. citizens from obtaining employment since millions of illegal immigrants would be allowed to work legally in the U. S. Americans don’t want to pass a bill for illegal immigrants, they want an opportunity to be able to work again…the DREAM Act just shows how disconnected the democrats are from the priorities of its American citizens.”
Despite the many opposing views, the argument for the bill was summarized by Senator Menendez (D-NJ).
“Children should not be punished for the actions of their parents," he said. "They worked hard in school and now want to serve our country in the military or pursue a college education. Today’s hearing is an important step in the right direction and puts us one step closer to seeing this bill.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.