House passes immigrant-youth DREAM Act; Senate to vote Thursday

Wednesday night the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2010, bipartisan legislation that lawmakers have batted around Washington for years as the post- 9/11 recession-era politics of immigration have grown increasingly heated. The bill passed 216 votes to 198. Immigrant rights groups and members of the House cheered the victory as the bill moved to a scheduled Thursday vote in the Senate, the place where most major legislation these days seems destined to die and where DREAM Act supporters face a tougher battle.

The act grants citizenship to undocumented youth raised in the United States provided they attend two years of university and / or serve in the Armed Forces. Colorado Rep. Jared Polis has championed the bill in the two years he has served in Congress and he gave an impassioned speech on the floor of the House last night.

The young people covered under this bill are the children any parent would be proud of, our sons and daughters, neighbors, classmates, prom kings and queens, football players and cheerleaders who stayed in school, played by the rules, worked hard, stayed out of trouble. They are the children of our great nation and we too should be proud.

Not proud of the broken and dysfunctional immigration system and lack of enforcement that put them in this situation. Not proud of their parents’ violation of our immigration laws, no matter how out of touch with reality those laws may be. Not proud of the indignities, discrimination and fear that these young people have faced at every turn. But proud of how these young Americans have overcome adversity and demonstrated American exceptionalism.

Their pluck, ingenuity, ambition, drive and creativity in pursuit of, as the Declaration of Independence puts it, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” These DREAMers embody the very best among our American values and we should be proud to call them out countrymen.

Those who oppose the DREAM Act support the ongoing presence of over 500,000 more illegal immigrants within our borders. Opponents of the DREAM act make a travesty of the rule of the law and facilitate the ongoing presence of undocumented foreign nationals inside our country, which so frustrates our states and cities.

Let me end by simply relating this to common sense. If you are pulled over for a speeding ticket and you have a child in a car-seat next to you, that two-year-old doesn’t get the speeding ticket. If there is a bank robber with a toddler on his back, that toddler doesn’t spend a life in prison.

In a release, Executive Director of immigrant rights group America‚Äôs Voice Frank Sharry looked to Thursday’s Senate vote:

[This is] one of those votes that will stick with each and every Senator for the rest of their career. They either stand up for young immigrants who are Americans in all but paperwork, or slam the door shut on the best and the brightest of the immigrant community. We urge them to do the smart thing and the right thing.

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