Is the Dream Act just a dream?

Countless times we see bills enter Congress floor for discussion, and countless times we see them pushed away, despite their best intentions.  Welcome to the case of the Dream Act.  For those of you who are new to the political process, let me breakdown the usual painful process of what happens when a bill is perceived by those on the Hill as too progressive or just simply not safe enough. 


1.       Translate a solution to a plaguing social problem into a bill:  check. 

2.       Bring the bill to Congress floor for negotiation:  check. 

3.       Spend months (or years) tearing it apart:  check. 

4.       Reject the bill due to its controversial nature:  check.

5.       Water it down, attach it to another more Congress-friendly bill or both:  check.


Does it pass, then?  Not often enough, and those bills that do pass are many times not as inclusive and as constructive as its original version.  Is this fair and just politics, especially when it concerns the futures and livelihoods of undocumented immigrant youth that have spent a majority of their lives investing on their education?  I suppose it would depend on who you are asking this question.  If it’s one of the 65,000 18-year old students that would benefit from such a bill each year, I think it’s safe to assume that the answer is no.


The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, better known as the Dream Act, is a bi-partisan legislation that was first introduced in 2001.  It was created to address the issues pertaining to young people that came to the United States involuntarily at a very young age and are now being denied access to higher education as a result of their legal status.  Between 2001 and 2006, it was introduced time and time again to both the House and Senate, with the same disappointing rejection each time. 


Then, with the continued support of Richard Durbin (D-IL) and other Congress members, the Dream Act once more tried its turn on the floor of Congress.  This time, it came in the form of an amendment to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006.  The growing momentum and advocacy for this issue in Washington was finally reaching its peak and the bill had passed the Senate.  Just when it seemed like victory was around the corner, the House leadership failed to bring up the bill for vote.  Now, with the comprehensive immigration reform slowly being drowned out, the Dream Act has yet again fallen through the cracks of legislation.  Perhaps with the new administration will come new hope.


So, to answer my title of whether the Dream Act is just a dream, I can only aspire that it’s not – for the sake of undocumented Latino and other minority children.




– Marianne Peterson


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