The DREAM Act, the carrot constantly being dangled in front of the immigrant’s rights movement, is back in the House and Senate. As you may remember, it was heart-wrenchingly defeated by only five Senate votes at the end of the last session, a huge loss for the movement that has been pushing this legislation for over a decade.
Today, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced the reintroduction of the DREAM Act in the 112th Congress, and Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) plan to introduce a similar bill in the House later this afternoon. The DREAM Act, which would give hardworking immigrant youth the opportunity to earn their legal status through higher education or military service, was originally introduced in 2001, and has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress and from leaders in the business, religious, and civil rights communities. Today’s announcements reflect that leaders on both sides of the aisle agree: The DREAM Act is commonsense legislation whose time has come.
The political possibilities for the bill are limited though, with Republican leadership in the House unlikely to endorse the bill (as we’ve learned, if it’s not about reducing access to abortion, they are not interested). This bill has historically had bipartisan support (note bipartisan cosponsors in the House), but bipartisanship is a rarity in the current political climate and likely to be scarce in the running up to the 2012 election.
Despite all this, it is a bill that deserves to see the fight move forward. State-level versions of the DREAM Act have been making progress, which is where many are focusing their energy. Maryland’s Governor just signed their version of the act, a big victory for advocates.