A Senate Judiciary subcommittee this morning held the first-ever hearing on legislation designed to give undocumented young people brought to the United States as children a path to higher education and citizenship.
The Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security heard testimony from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and others on the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2011 (S. 952). The measure was introduced in the Senate on May 11 by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL).
The DREAM Act would repeal the provision in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 which penalizes states for providing in-state tuition to undocumented students. It also would establish a six-year conditional permanent residency status for students who were brought to this country by age 15 or younger, have been here at least five years as of the enactment date, have graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED test credential and have passed a background check.
DREAM-eligible individuals would qualify for permanent residency after six years by completing at least two years of higher education or of military service.
Duncan laid out a strong economic argument for passing the DREAM Act, quoting a Congressional Budget Office study estimating it would lead to $1.4 billion in deficit reduction over the next decade if passed. Emphasizing the need for more STEM-educated students in the United States, he said the legislation was “an investment, not an expense.”
ACE and many in the higher education community have long supported the different iterations of this legislation, which has been consistently introduced in Congress since 2001. ACE President Molly Corbett Broad, on behalf of several higher education associations, submitted a statement to the subcommittee in support of S. 952, urging that it be enacted this year.
“It has been estimated that 65,000 DREAM-eligible students graduate from American high schools each year,” wrote Broad. “By providing them with a path to education and legal immigration status, our entire country will benefit as these individuals will contribute to our efforts to be more competitive in the global economy and will enhance our national security by contributing to our military’s readiness. It is truly in our best interest to ensure they have the opportunity to achieve their dreams and become part of the well-educated and competitive work force that our country needs today.”