The Dream Act: What’s Next?

On Sept. 22, Democratic Majority Leader Harry M. Reid proposed a re-vote on the Federal Dream Act with its inclusion as an amendment to the Defense Re-authorization bill..The vote was postponed to a later date, much to Reid’s disappointment.

The vote, scheduled on Wednesday, required 60 votes to be approved. However, senators voted 56 to 43 for the bill, meaning all proposed amendments could not be voted on as well.

Harry Reid has announced plans to include the Dream Act in an amendment to the National Defense Act for the 2011 fiscal year.

The Dream Act is a bill under the Federal government introduced to Senate in August 2001 which would allow undocumented students under the age of 35 an opportunity for permanent residency in the United States.

The Dream Act provides development, relief and education for alien minors, permitting conditional citizenship for six years to “non-status immigrants” — those below 35 years old and illegally taken into the U.S. before 16 years of age. They must have lived at least five years in the U.S.

Conditions for the Dream Act also include being of good moral character, being a student enrolled in a two-year community college or a university following their graduation from high school or completing two years in the military in good standing.

According to political science and Chicano/Latino studies associate Professor Louis DeSipio, the Dream Act represents a compelling argument to provide undocumented students equal opportunities in education, financial aid and in their military aspirations. DeSipio described his views on the Dream Act, saying it should be associated with a larger comprehensive bill that will provide a solution to immigration within the U.S. and not just for undocumented students.

According to Ceasar D. Sereseres, associate dean for undergraduate studies and professor of political science, there is unanimous support against the Dream Act by Republican senators, while the Democrat senators all expect to vote for the bill’s passage. Sereseres says that the upcoming election in November allows for Democratic support for the Dream Act and the Republicans’ safety stance on the subject of immigration.

DeSipio believes that “unauthorized students will remain in the shadow” but they will still do well in all of their activities.

Sereseres adds that this bill will give students an “identity, hope and dignity,” and they will survive the rejection of this vote,, continuing to thrive with their education.

With the November elections around the corner, the question of the Dream Act is in limbo. As of now, the Senate has a Democratic majority and leader who is a supporter of the Dream Act, but that could change with the election results. The Dream Act, which is the hope for the two million undocumented students across the U.S., will have both opposition and support as it makes its way into the voting chambers again soon.

Without the passing of this bill, no other pathway to citizenship exists for these students. UCI and other UC campuses have created an event called “No Sleep for the Dream Act.” Their goal is to urge Governor Schwarzenegger to not veto the Act. The California Dream Act is scheduled to be passed into law by Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010 unless vetoed by the Governor.