Higher Education Leaders Endorse Legislation as "Critical to Our Nation’s Future"
The Senate voted 68-32 Thursday to approve a historic plan to overhaul the nation's immigration system, a measure that contains a number of provisions strongly supported by the higher education community, including a DREAM Act for students.
Passage of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744) was secured earlier in the week after an agreement on a border security amendment and an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that the measure would reduce the deficit by $197 billion over 10 years paved the way for more Republican support.
Prior to the Senate vote, fourteen higher education leaders, including ACE President Molly Corbett Broad, sent a letter to senators urging them to vote in favor of the bill.
“As leaders of the higher education community, we believe that S. 744 is a very sound and important bill which is critical to our nation’s future,” the letter states. “U.S. colleges and universities, which are both educators and employers, would benefit from the improvements to our immigration system included in S. 744.”
The centerpiece of the Senate bill, drafted by four Democrats and four Republicans, is a 13-year path to citizenship for many of the 11 million people now in the country without legal status. This path would be expedited for DREAM Act students, young people brought illegally to the United States as children. The bill also includes beefed up rules on student visas and an increase in the number of H1-B visas for highly skilled workers.
The version of the DREAM Act included in the measure removes the age cap for eligibility, repeals the current federal law that limits states' options to provide in-state tuition to undocumented students and allows DREAM Act students to qualify for federal loans and work-study.
“The DREAM Act provisions offer thousands of undocumented students, who graduate from our high schools every year, an expedited path to citizenship for accomplishing academic pursuits and/or serving in the U.S. military,” the letter notes. “It also serves our long-term economic growth by providing these young people a way out of the shadows and into our workforce.”
The legislation’s fate in the House is unclear.
Note: Updated from a June 26 version to reflect the final Senate vote.