WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) joined Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and 30 other Senators to introduce the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act - a narrowly tailored bill to give undocumented students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing.
"This common sense legislation will help thousands of immigrant students who meet rigorous requirements to earn a path to legal status by contributing to our country through military service or by getting a college education," said Sen. Carper. "These students have excelled in U.S. schools and they deserve the opportunity to serve their communities by graduation from college and getting a job, or joining the U.S. military."
In order to be eligible for the DREAM Act individuals must have:
- Come to the U.S. as children (15 or under)
- Be long-term U.S. residents (continuous physical presence for at least five years)
- Have good moral character
- Graduate from high school or obtain a GED
- Complete two years of college or military service in good standing
The DREAM Act would benefit the U.S. Armed Forces. Tens of thousands of highly-qualified, well-educated young people would enlist in the Armed Forces if the DREAM Act becomes law. The Defense Department's FY 2010-12 Strategic Plan includes the DREAM Act as a means to help "shape and maintain a mission-ready All Volunteer Force." Defense Secretary Gates, who supports the DREAM Act, says it "will result in improved recruitment results and attendant gains in unit manning and military performance." General Colin Powell has also endorsed the DREAM Act, saying, "Immigration is what's keeping this country's lifeblood moving forward."
The DREAM Act would stimulate the American economy. A UCLA study concluded that DREAM Act participants could contribute $1.4-$3.6 trillion to the U.S. economy during their working lives.
The DREAM Act includes important restrictions to prevent abuse. DREAM Act participants are not eligible for Pell and other federal grants and are subject to tough criminal penalties for fraud. DREAM Act applicants must apply within one year of obtaining a high school degree/GED or the bill's enactment; and must prove eligibility by a preponderance of the evidence. To be eligible, an individual must submit biometric information; undergo background checks and a medical exam; register for the Selective Service; demonstrate the ability to read, write, and speak English; and demonstrate knowledge of the history and government of the U.S. An individual cannot qualify if he or she is ineligible for immigration relief on criminal or national security grounds.
The DREAM Act has broad bipartisan support in Congress and from the American people. In the 111th Congress, the DREAM Act passed the House and received a strong bipartisan majority vote from 55 Senators. According to a recent poll by Opinion Research Corporation, 70% of likely voters favor the DREAM Act, including 60% of Republicans.
The DREAM Act is supported by labor, business, education, civil rights and religious groups, including the AFL-CIO, the National PTA, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the CEOs of Fortune 100 companies like Microsoft and Pfizer, and dozens of colleges and universities.
The following Senators are also cosponsors of the DREAM Act: Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Carl Levin (D-MI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Barbara Boxer (D–CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mark Udall (D-CO), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives today by Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).