by Félix Pérez
Little DREAMers should have the same five-year path to citizenship as their older brothers and sisters. That’s the intent behind a bipartisan amendment filed yesterday in the U.S. Senate – an amendment applauded by educators for setting right an omission in the larger immigration bill currently being debated in the Senate.
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“Educators know that providing our students — including our Little DREAMers — every opportunity to succeed is part of the fabric of our schools, communities, and our country,” said Arizona high school math teacher and National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel. “The Little DREAMers amendment upholds these principles to do right by children so they can achieve their full potential.”
The Little DREAMers amendment is sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, and Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican. The bipartisan approach follows that of the larger immigration bill by the Gang of Eight, which comprises four Republican and four Democratic senators.
The DREAM Act, which is included in the Senate’s immigration bill — the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act —provides a five-year pathway to citizenship for youth brought to the United States prior to age 16, have graduated from high school or earned a GED, and earned a college diploma, attended two years of college, or spent four years in the military. However, the bill does not provide this five-year pathway for youth brought to this country as children but too young to have graduated from high school or earned a GED. Instead, these children are required to follow the standard adult path to citizenship, which could mean up to a 13-year wait for the youngest children.
“The Senate’s bipartisan immigration legislation is a historic step, but it should not exclude the littlest DREAMers – children brought to this country by their parents who are too young to qualify for the five-year pathway to citizenship the DREAM Act provides,” Blumenthal said in a statement.
Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, “This amendment represents an investment in America’s future. The children who will benefit from it will one day be her leaders.”
In another welcome development for DREAMers, their families and the educators who stand with them, Gallup poll results released today revealed:
Nearly 90 percent of Americans said they would vote for a law that allows aspiring Americans the opportunity to become citizens after a long waiting period if they paid taxes and a penalty, pass a criminal background check, and learn English.
Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) yesterday announced that the bipartisan immigration reform bill being debated on the Senate floor would cut the federal budget deficit by $197 billion in the next 10 years and nearly $1 trillion in the first two decades.
Bill proponents hope to see the bill passed by the Senate by the July 4 recess.