September 22, 2010

DREAM Act Nixed by Senate Republicans

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Senate Republicans blocked a defense spending bill on Tuesday, effectively killing the DREAM Act, which would have enabled an estimated 726,000 undocumented students to legally stay in the country. The 56-43 vote would have required 60 votes to move the bill forward.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act would allow undocumented high school graduates who had arrived in the United States as minors to obtain temporary residency for six years. It would then require the students to attend college or serve in the military for at least two years. Those who met these conditions and lived in the U.S. for five years would then be allowed to apply for legal permanent residency.

The Act was sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.).

The DREAM Act and a measure to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy were both attached to the defense bill as an amendment.

The vote was divided nearly along party lines; not a single Republican voted for the bill. Some opponents accused Democrats of trying to appease Hispanic voters right before midterm elections, according to an article in The Washington Post.

In April, President David Skorton wrote a letter supporting the DREAM Act, which was signed by many university presidents. The letter was sent to members of Congress.

In the letter, Skorton wrote, “This legislation will correct an injustice perpetrated upon thousands of American students and ultimately will benefit our country. It is the right thing to do and should be done now.”

Lesly Betancourt-Gonzalez ’11, a member of El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán de Cornell said, “Though I was saddened that the DREAM Act was blocked, our momentum and belief in the DREAM Act has not flagged because we fell short of four votes. The DREAM Act will be brought to the Senate floor as a stand-alone bill, and it is my hope that it will get the necessary votes to keep moving. The DREAM Act has been 10 years in the making. It holds the ability to make reality the dreams of our peers who wish to contribute to the United States.”

“We’re not going to stop.  We’re going to push harder,” Kim Lopez ’12 who is also a member of MEChA de Cornell, said.  “It’s extremely disappointing to see a country ignore such a large portion of its population.”

“Most people don’t even know that they know people who are undocumented,” Lopez said. “We can’t [fight for the DREAM Act] alone. I would ask that people become more aware, as a group we can do something.  Cornell and the Ivy League in general have a lot of power.”

Thursday night, “Papers,” a movie about the challenges faced by undocumented youth, will be shown at 7 p.m. at the Kaufman Auditorium in Goldwin Smith Hall. The event is hosted by several student organizations that support the DREAM Act.

Original Author: Laura Shepard