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House Republican Discloses a (Watered-Down) DREAM—What About the President?

Joanne Lin,
Senior Legislative Counsel,
Charanya Krishnaswami,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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May 31, 2012

What happens to a DREAM deferred? In 2010 Senate Republicans defeated the bipartisan legislation, which offered a path to citizenship for DREAMers—promising undocumented youth headed to college or the military, most of whom were brought to the United States at very young ages through no fault of their own. But now, the same party that stamped out DREAM is attempting to bring it back—somewhat.

Called STARS (“Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status”) (H.R. 5869), Florida Republican Rep. David Rivera’s bill—which Rivera introduced yesterday with Dartmouth-bound DREAMer Daniela Pelaez at his side—provides a path to legalization for many of the same youth the DREAM Act would have protected. It offers “conditional non-immigrant status” to students who moved to the United States before the age of 16, have lived in the country for at least five years, have completed high school, and are on track to attend college.

The bill is in no way a substitute for the real DREAM that passed the House in 2010. For one, Rivera’s proposed “conditional non-immigrant status” is nowhere near as strong a protection as the legal permanent resident status granted to those eligible under the DREAM Act. Under Rivera’s bill, a student must spend five years here before she is eligible for “conditional non-immigrant status”; five years as a conditional non-immigrant before she may apply for permanent residency; and another five years before the student can even apply for citizenship. That amounts to a minimum of 15 years before citizenship is even a possibility for these students.

But the bill, which contains several provisions similar to those proposed by Rivera’s close friend and Senate ally Marco Rubio (who has long promised, but as of today has yet to deliver, a “DREAM lite” bill of his own), is at least a start in the right direction. It recognizes the incredible promise of hardworking students and allows them to contribute to the country’s economic growth.

More remarkably, by seeking for these youth a path to legalization, Rubio and Rivera have signaled willingness to end the plight facing DREAMers nationwide. President Obama, who called the failure of DREAM in 2010 “heartbreaking,” has nevertheless failed to use his authority to stop the heart-wrenching deportation of DREAMers.

The president has the power to end these deportations today. Yet the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) under this administration has deported a jaw-dropping 1.2 million immigrants—setting the highest deportation rate of any president in history. While the White House has repeatedly blamed the Republicans in Congress for failing to act on immigration reform, DHS continues to detain and deport DREAMers.

Earlier this month, a top White House official blamed the lack of reform of our harsh immigration laws on partisan intransigence, claiming that “Republicans have abandoned” the DREAM Act. But Rivera and Rubio demonstrate that at least a few Republicans are willing to step up, help legalize DREAMers, and end their tragic deportations. Now, it’s the administration’s turn to stop deferring this DREAM.

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