Congressional Democrats are making a push to pass the DREAM Act – the long-simmering legislation that would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought into the country as children – with the first-ever Senate hearing on the legislation set for Tuesday.
Some big guns, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, are set to testify at the session chaired by by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and hosted by the Senate Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security.
The legislation, first introduced in 2001 and reintroduced several times since then, had earlier received the support of some Republicans but has fallen short of passage. Most recently, late last year, Senate Democrats attempted to fold the act into a defense-spending bill, only to see it filibustered. An effort to pass the DREAM Act separately also failed.
But Durbin is persistent.
“I’ve been working on the DREAM Act for over 10 years,” he said in a statement. “In that time, it’s been reported out of committee by a large bipartisan margin, passed the House of Representatives, and received a bipartisan majority vote in the Senate, only to fall because of a filibuster.”
The bill would make it possible for people brought into the country as children to apply for citizenship after spending several years in the country and completing two years of college or military service. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reintroduced the bill in May.
This time, backers are focusing on the potential economic benefits of a path to citizenship.
“This could be a piece of a solution to a number of the challenges our country faces,” Duncan said Monday on a press conference call. “We just need the human potential, the tremendous capacity, to contribute to society, to contribute to our economy.”
Duncan said the law would recue the federal deficit by $1.4 billion in the next decade by making it possible for more illegal immigrants to stay in the country and pay taxes.
But that approach is already getting pushback.
The hearing “highlights how out of touch Democrats are with the priorities of the American people,” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a Monday statement. “Millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in the past few years dream of going back to work, but the DREAM Act won’t make this dream come true for them.”
To the contrary, he said, it “would prevent Americans from getting jobs since millions of illegal immigrants will become eligible to work legally in the United States. Americans don’t want a jobs bill for illegal immigrants, they want an opportunity to go back to work.”
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